When other nations ask the U.S. State Department for military systems or components from U.S. manufacturers, it’s more than a potential sales contract for goods or services – it’s the start of a collaborative relationship that can benefit both countries.
Whenever a foreign military sale involves an Army helicopter or missile system, an Aviation and Missile Command’s Security Assistance Management Directorate international program manager/case manager works within the Army Materiel Command’s security assistance enterprise and requesting country’s representative to develop and deliver a total package designed to last the lifetime of that purchase and beyond.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the goal of the FMS program is “responsible arms sales to further national security and foreign policy objectives by strengthening bilateral defense relations, supporting coalition building, and enhancing interoperability between U.S. forces and militaries of friends and allies. These sales also contribute to American prosperity by improving the U.S. balance of trade position, sustaining highly skilled jobs in the defense industrial base, and extending production lines and lowering unit costs for key weapon systems.”
“We’re a part of the execution mission for FMS,” SAMD Director Brian Wood said. “We develop the cases in coordination with the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, other U.S. Army life cycle management commands, PEO Aviation, PEO Missiles and Space and other U.S. government agencies to provide our allies and partner nations with the military systems they need to protect themselves from neighboring threats and improve their nation’s readiness.”
From request to delivery, the FMS process can sometimes take years, depending on the type of equipment provided, and it often lasts decades, depending on how long the equipment is used by the customer, Wood said. During fiscal year 2019, SAMD worked with approximately 80 customer-countries on approximately 1,200 FMS cases.
International program managers may get involved near the very beginning of a potential sale, when a country needs to prepare a letter of request to the U.S. government for consideration. They work with the Security Assistance Command and the partner-nation to develop a comprehensive request that clearly defines their FMS requirement.
U.S. policy for FMS requires a total-package approach, which means a country’s FMS case needs to cover the initial sale items, delivery and training, plus sustainment, and any contractor logistics support, Wood explained.
“Let’s say country X needs a Black Hawk helicopter or a Patriot missile system – the letter of request needs to be very specific regarding the system requirements,” Wood said. “Our international program managers along with the representatives from the U.S. security cooperation offices, USASAC and weapon system program managers assist customers clearly understand and articulate exactly what their requirements are, including technical publications, maintenance, training and sustainment.”
A SAMD case manager’s job relies on a complex combination of skills – project manager, technical expert, contract scope-of-work developer and foreign liaison. Because a FMS case might be the first time another nation has worked with the U.S. military, the quality of that FMS relationship can have enduring effects.
“Our workforce is our most precious resource,” Wood said. SAMD’s professional, dedicated staff of about 350 Army civilians and contractors work every day to enable strategic readiness and deliver partner-nation capability.
“We’re cultivating a lasting, positive, nation-to-nation relationship that improves a FMS customer’s defense capability, plus their interoperability with U.S. forces in a coalition setting. That’s a win-win for both our militaries,” said Mark Barefield, SAMD’s Far East/Futures Branch chief, Aviation Utility Systems Division.
“The really big win is the relationship we build with other nations’ armies,” said Cedric Pollard, one of SAMD’s international program managers for FMS cases including utility helicopters, like the UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and UH-72 Lakota. “I’ve been working with one customer on their FMS cases since their first helicopter request to the State Department about 10 years ago. I can tell you, the quality of our engagements with FMS customers absolutely sets the stage for cooperation during potential future training and operations with our U.S. Soldiers, plus U.S. and international disaster-response agencies.
“Earthquakes, typhoons and other tropical storms are very common for FMS customers in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command region. Many of the helicopters we sell to them are frequently used for rescue operations following natural disasters,” he said. “So you see, we’re not just facilitating U.S. military sales, we’re helping them save lives. Forging solid business relationships, and even friendships, happens naturally as we work together.”
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs oversees most government-to- government arms transfers and commercial export licensing of U.S.-origin defense equipment and technologies, consistent with the Arms Export Control Act, the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and other statutory authorities and relevant international agreements.
Foreign military sales and defense trade are key tools of foreign policy with potential long-term implications for regional security. For this reason, the United States takes into account political, military, economic, arms-control and human-rights conditions in making decisions on the provision of military equipment and the licensing of direct commercial sales to any country. Each proposed transfer is carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis, and approved if found to further U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.
The Department of Defense’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency implements FMS cases by working through the military services to negotiate with U.S. defense contractors and by providing the customer with training, sustainment, and contractor logistics support for the lifetime of the sale.