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A U.S. Airforce member near a Patriot missile battery at the Prince Sultan air base in Al-Kharj, in central Saudi Arabia in February. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency alerted Congress Tuesday about plans for a $290 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia that would include 3,000 precision guided munitions.

Why it matters: The State Department's approval of the potential deal in the Trump administration's final weeks comes despite President-elect Joe Biden vowing during his election campaign to end weapons sales to the Saudis.

Details: Saudi Arabia has requested to buy GBU-39 SDB I munitions, spare parts, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, weapon support, support equipment and other items and services, the Pentagon said in a statement. Boeing would be the principal contractor.

  • "The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions," the statement said.
  • "The size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage.  The potential sale will further strengthen the interoperability between the United States and Saudi Arabia."

Of note: The Trump administration's 2019 sale to Saudi Arabia drew bipartisan ire among lawmakers.

  • The State Department inspector general found last August that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acted legally when he bypassed Congress to approve the $8 billion in arms sale, but failed to "fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties" that resulted from the deal.
  • The Biden transition team declined to comment on the Pentagon's latest announcement, saying it "would not be appropriate for us to do so during the transition period." 

Correction: The estimated cost of the sale is $290 million, not $290 billion.

Go deeper

Jan 22, 2021 - World

What has and hasn't changed as Biden takes over U.S. foreign policy

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate pact and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

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