<i>President Obama at a Rolls-Royce Crosspointe facility in Virginia. (Larry Downing / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"In the 1990s, the United States controlled 60 percent of the global weapons market. Today, it is responsible for only about 30 percent. By focusing on cutting-edge technology and developing excessively expensive defense systems, Washington has left the door open for foreign competitors to market practical weapons at an affordable cost."
<i>The F-35 arriving at Edwards Air Force Base in California. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"No program embodies the missteps threatening the U.S. defense industry better than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which even its most optimistic proponents now admit is a procurement disaster."
<i>The Saudi Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon. (Yoshi5000 / flickr)</i></br>"In 2010, for example, the U.S. Congress approved a $60 billion, ten-year arms deal with Saudi Arabia, much of which will involve the purchase of some of the most sophisticated fighter jets in the world. But even the Saudis have sought to diversify their supplier base, acquiring Eurofighter jets through the United Kingdom and threatening to purchase helicopters from Russia."
<i>Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"A firm such as Sukhoi, a major Russian aircraft manufacturer, knows it cannot rely on domestic orders alone for its survival. Over the last decade, it has succeeded in selling fairly inexpensive fighter jets to countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia."
<i>One of the Hungarian Air Force's JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets (in foreground). (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Sweden has sold its Gripen single-engine fighter to countries such as Hungary and Thailand."
<i>The Air Vice Marshal of Pakistan's Air Force in 2005. (Mian Khursheed / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Pakistan's largest arms supplier is now China, Singapore is acquiring French naval vessels, and for the first time in its history, the Philippines is looking to non-American aircraft sources."
<i>A Tucano turboprop in Colombia. (Jose Gomez / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"The U.S. Air Force reversed its decision to buy the Brazilian company Embraer's a-29 Super Tucano -- a combat-proven plane used by six other air forces, which was to be built almost entirely in the United States -- in response to protests from Arkansas-based Hawker Beechcraft, whose competitor plane remains in development."
<i>The cockpit of the F-35 Lightning II, as displayed on a simulator. (Hyungwon Kang / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Yet there is good news as well: many of the U.S. defense industry's competitive advantages -- massive economies of scale, a research budget that still dwarfs the rest of the world's, and the proven quality of its products -- will remain robust for the foreseeable future."
<i>Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (left) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates testify during a hearing of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee in 2011. (Kevin Lamarque / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>To fix the problem, "The White House (with congressional support) must force the Pentagon and its suppliers to do something they have rarely been willing to do in the past: rather than design and produce unnecessarily sophisticated weapons for domestic use, they should develop simpler and more cost-effective ones for a global market, under rigorous civilian oversight."

Gallery: Arms Away

For two decades, the United States has dominated the global arms trade, reaping a broad range of economic and geopolitical benefits in the process. But shortsighted decisions to produce expensive, cutting-edge weapons systems, rather than cheaper, more practical ones, are squandering this monopoly and letting other countries get into the market.

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