$110 Billion Weapons Sale to Saudis Has Jared Kushner’s Personal Touch (excerpt)
(Source: New York Times; published May 18, 2017)
By Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt and Matt Apuzzo
WASHINGTON — On the afternoon of May 1, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, welcomed a high-level delegation of Saudis to a gilded reception room next door to the White House and delivered a brisk pep talk: “Let’s get this done today.”
Mr. Kushner was referring to a $100 billion-plus arms deal that the administration hoped to seal with Saudi Arabia in time to announce it during Mr. Trump’s visit to the kingdom this weekend. The two sides discussed a shopping list that included planes, ships and precision-guided bombs. Then an American official raised the idea of the Saudis’ buying a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.
Sensing that the cost might be a problem, several administration officials said, Mr. Kushner picked up the phone and called Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the radar system — and asked her whether she could cut the price. As his guests watched slack-jawed, Ms. Hewson told him she would look into it, officials said.
Mr. Kushner’s personal intervention in the arms sale is further evidence of the Trump White House’s readiness to dispense with custom in favor of informal, hands-on deal making. It also offers a window into how the administration hopes to change America’s position in the Middle East, emphasizing hard power and haggling over traditional diplomacy. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the New York Times website.
Saudis Said to Forge $6 Billion Lockheed Deal for Littoral Ships (excerpt)
(Source: Bloomberg News; published May 19, 2017)
by Anthony Capaccio and Margaret Talev
Lockheed Martin Corp. has reached a $6 billion deal to sell Saudi Arabia four of its Littoral Combat Ships as U.S. President Donald Trump travels to the kingdom, people familiar with the transaction said.
The final letter of agreement includes a better-armed version of the ships, support equipment, munitions and electronic-warfare systems, according to the people, who asked not to be identified in advance of an announcement that may come as early as Saturday morning Washington time. That’s when Trump is scheduled to arrive in Riyadh on the first leg of an eight-day trip that will take him across the Middle East and to Rome.
The Trump administration is promising to improve relations with the Saudis that were strained under former President Barack Obama. For its part, Saudi Arabia has pledged to buy billions of dollars of U.S. military equipment in the next decade and invest about $40 billion from its sovereign wealth fund in American companies.
The littoral ships, designed for shallow coastal waters, are part of a package of agreements on weapons sales that already had been approved in late 2015 by the U.S. State Department, which oversees the Foreign Military Sales program. Congress also approved the sale, but it wasn’t completed under Obama. From 2009 to 2016, the Obama administration approved $115 billion in potential sales to the Saudis. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Bloomberg News website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: If the deal goes through, Saudi Arabia would become the first export customer for the LCS light frigate, a notoriously compromised program which has resulted in operationally useless vessels.
During a May 18 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on acquisition reform, Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat, described the Littoral Combat Ship program as follows:
“The fundamental argument made by the Navy and by the defense industry was, ‘Well, we gotta continue to produce another 20 of these ships that serve really no good purpose and, by the way, will probably be sunk at the very first shot that’ll be fired and don’t have much utility, but we need to do it because we need to keep the defense base working,’ ” DoD Buzz reported.)