PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has executed $44.15 billion in U.S. foreign arms sales through June 19, and the agency's director said he was optimistic the total for the full year would reach last year's $55.66 billion.
DSCA Director U.S. Army Lieutenant General Charles Hooper told business executives and reporters the U.S. government was continuing its concerted drive to step up arms sales to improve the capabilities of allies and accelerate the process.
"I think things are going well, and remember, we still have a quarter left to go," he said at the Paris Airshow, where more than 400 U.S. companies are exhibiting their aerospace and defence equipment.
Fiscal 2018 arms sales rose 33 percent above the year earlier level, and could rise further in the current fiscal year.
Hooper told Reuters after his speech that he could not predict the full year level for fiscal 2019, but said he was optimistic last year's total would be reached again.
"I look at this total. I think we've come a long way. I'm always optimistic," he said.
Hooper said a move by DSCA to reduce the administrative surcharge on foreign arms sales from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent had already saved its customers $180 million.
The U.S. government was also working to speed deliveries to countries that purchased U.S. weapons, Hooper said. For instance, he said one country that had ordered the Raytheon Co Patriot missile defence system would receive initial equipment in just two years, far more quickly than in the past.
He said foreign military sales to the European area accounted for over $13.11 billion of total arms sales executed in fiscal 2018.
Industry executives at the Paris Airshow say demand for weapons in Europe is increasing, in part due to increased threats from Russia, as well as pressure from the United States on European allies to spending on their own security. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Potter)