The business of war is profitable. In 2011, the 100 largest contractors sold $410 billion in arms and military services. Just 10 of those companies sold over $208 billion. Based on a list of the top 100 arms-producing and military services companies in 2011 compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 companies with the most military sales worldwide.
These companies have benefited tremendously from the growth in military spending in the U.S., which by far has the largest military budget in the world. In 2000, the U.S. defense budget was approximately $312 billion. By 2011, the figure had grown to $712 billion. Arm sales grew alongside general defense spending growth. SIPRI noted that between 2002 and 2011, arms sales among the top 100 companies grew by 51%.
However, the trend has recently reversed. In 2011, the top 100 arms dealers sold 5% less compared to 2010. Susan Jackson, a SIPRI defense expert, said in an email to 24/7 Wall St. that austerity measures in Western Europe and the U.S. have delayed or slowed the procurement of different weapons systems. Austerity concerns have exacerbated matters. Federal budget cuts that took effect in March mean military spending could contract by more than $500 billion over the coming decade unless policymakers negotiate a pullback on the mandated cuts.