Data Guide

The Security Assistance Monitor (SAM) at the Center for International Policy tracks U.S. arms sales, security assistance, and foreign military training. This page provides a guide to the SAM datasets and how to use them.

Quickstart Guide:

The easiest way to access the data is via the “Map” tab, above. By hovering over a country, a summary of U.S. security cooperation with that country is displayed. By clicking on a country, options are revealed to navigate to detailed dashboards for arms sales, security assistance, and foreign military training. Multiple countries can be selected at once by clicking and dragging to view all of their details together. Clicking again anywhere on the map deselects the country.

Once in a detailed dashboard, click or click and drag on specific years to narrow the timeframe. Detailed information is displayed below the graph of assistance by year. You can click on the URL (to the right of a piece of information) to find the original document SAM extracted the data from.

Introduction to SAM Data:

SAM maintains three datasets (arms sales, security sector assistance, and foreign military training) at two levels of detail each (summary and detail). Summary data is generally displayed on maps, in tables, and on charts, while detail data is displayed in the detail dashboards. It is important to note that totals often do not match the sum of the details. This is because total data is often reported in a different way than the detail data and may include elements that are not reported in the detail data.

Arms Sales:

FMS, DCS, and Notifications, Authorizations, and Deliveries

There are two broad categories of U.S. arms sales: foreign military sales between the US government and a foreign government, and direct commercial sales between a U.S. manufacturer and a foreign buyer. Foreign military sales that fall above a certain threshold must be notified by Congress, while direct commercial sales are generally considered proprietary and only a high-level summary of approved export authorizations are provided. As such, “notifications” usually refer to foreign military sales, while “authorizations” always refer to direct commercial sales.

Accordingly, SAM breaks arms sales data into three categories: Notifications, Authorizations, and Deliveries. Notifications are reported by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Authorizations come from Department of State Section 655 reports. Deliveries are self-explanatory, and when data is available for arms deliveries, SAM will report it. This data is relatively rare, however, and there are no statutory requirements for deliveries to be reported. This means that most arms sales data is reported at a relatively early stage of a deal, and arms may not actually reach the recipient until at least months, and sometimes years, later.

In October 2022, SAM began using the Census Department’s Automated Export System (AES) database for arms deliveries data from 2018 on. A guide to SAM’s use of the dataset, including its benefits and caveats relative to previous delivery data, as well as commodity Harmonized System (HS) to USML category mappings, is available here.

The Map

As mentioned above, the map of U.S. security assistance is the easiest way to access SAM’s datasets. By hovering over a country, an overview is displayed, and by clicking on one, options are revealed to navigate to detailed dashboards for arms sales, security sector assistance, and foreign military training. Tools on the left of the map allow a user to zoom in on a particular region, which is helpful when looking at smaller countries or groups of countries. The home button on the left brings a user back to the original view.

Note that the coloring on the map is based on arms sales authorizations, measured on a log-scale. This is meant to be an easy visual reference only, and does not mean that SAM thinks this metric is representative of security assistance in general. Users who are interested in the relative global levels of U.S. assistance in other domains such as SSA or FMT are encouraged to look at the detailed dashboards for this information or reach out to us.

The Tables

SAM also presents arms sales, security assistance, and foreign military training data as tables, accessible under the “tables” tab above. For some use cases, this can be the most convenient way to view the data, and clicking on an entry will bring a user to the detailed dashboard for that country and year. These views are particularly important when investigating security assistance to smaller countries that may be difficult to see on the map, or occasionally to regional organizations i.e. the African Union, that won’t be displayed on the map.

As with the map, clicking again clears the filter.

What SAM can help with/Reaching Out

No set of visualizations can answer every use case, and SAM serves as a further resource for researchers, journalists, and policymakers in visualizing and analyzing our datasets in ways beyond what is available on the website. Our data is also all downloadable by selecting the share option in the top right of any visualization and selecting “crosstab”. If your query is not easily answerable with our public visualizations, please do not hesitate to reach out to SAM director Nate Marx at [email protected].

SAM takes data quality very seriously. If you see something that seems incorrect, let us know.

SAM data is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 License. Commercial use of SAM data or its derivatives is strictly prohibited without prior agreement. If you are interested in a project under different license terms, please reach out.