JULY 17, 2017, WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army continues to build on its core themes of readiness and global engagement through U.S. foreign military equipment sales according to Maj. Gen. Stephen Farmen, commander, U.S. Army Security Assistance Command.
Speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Hot Topics seminar on June 29, Farmen reiterated that the FMS program encourages allies to invest in training and sustainment, in addition to purchasing former U.S. military equipment and hardware.
By providing these partner nations with opportunities to utilize excess U.S. military equipment, the Army continues to sustain a ready coalition of U.S. forces and partner nations who are prepared to engage anywhere around the world at any time.
The policy and execution of U.S. foreign military sales are in the capable hands of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who is “very astute when it comes to leveraging FMS as a tool of foreign policy,” Farmen said. For example, Farmen noted that Mattis takes a USASAC representative with him whenever he travels the globe, as he recently did to Saudi Arabia.
The secretary uses an approach known as Threat-Based Security Cooperation, which encourages countries to “look at the mutual threats out there instead of chasing the shiny object,” according to Farmen.
The approach focuses on obtaining and deploying the right capabilities and capacities that are available to deal with those mutual threats in case they arise. FMS is an integral part of that approach, since it allows partners nations to obtain equipment when and where it is needed, according to Farmen.
Farmen cited Iraq as an example, where the M1A1 Abrams is playing a crucial role in the ongoing fight to liberate Mosul. Iraq obtained 150 tanks through the FMS process several years ago, along with the necessary training for crews and maintainers.
USASAC also provided the Iraqis with thousands of rounds of ammunition, recovery vehicles, spares, and maintenance for the tanks through the FMS program, Farmen said. It even provided fuel trucks and a fleet of support vehicles that were needed to move the tanks from place to place.
DEVELOPING NATIONS GET CAPABILITIES, TOO
While the benefit of modernized equipment is evident, how can developing nations with a low gross domestic product afford to pay for these necessary capabilities?
Farmen noted that many interested nations can cut their costs by utilizing older or excess Army equipment — known as excess defense articles, or EDA — that is no longer needed by the U.S. armed forces. Morocco, for example, acquired over 200 M-1 tanks through this program. Farmen mentioned that other countries in Africa and South America also take advantage of FMS.
Farmen noted that proper coordination and timing help to facilitate a smooth FMS or EDA process. Combatant commands of partner nations need to communicate with one another, and their U.S. counterparts, to ascertain their equipment priorities in accordance with planned strategic impacts and regional threats.
PLAYING THE ‘LONG GAME’
Farmen said USASAC is working to make the FMS and EDA processes even more streamlined and efficient, for the benefit of the United States and all other countries involved. USASAC currently sells FMS equipment to 151 partner nations, managing over 5,000 cases and over $170 billion in equipment per year — and those numbers are growing.
But Farmen noted that FMS and EDA are not just about obtaining revenue for equipment. The programs’ overall aims are the strategic effects of these equipment sales on regional and global readiness, both for the U.S. Army and its partner nations.
Farmen described the FMS process as “business savvy with a warfighter edge.” The ultimate goal of the program is to build partner capacity, reassure allies, and ensure interoperability. “We play the long game,” he said.
By David Vergun