WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Army is trying to rein in the unwieldy Foreign Military Sales process following a series of Pentagon and State Department reforms meant to speed up weapons transfers to allies and partners.
The Army’s equities in the Foreign Military Sales process ballooned from $13 billion in fiscal 2022 to $35 billion in fiscal 2023 amid increased demand following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
More than 30 organizations throughout the Army help coordinate that process.
“[T]he Army has pretty good stuff,” Camarillo said. “The industrial base produces the best capabilities, and Army soldiers have systems and tools and platforms that are essentially the envy of many other countries around the world.”
However, he added, “over the last couple of years our processes have become a little bit too complex, too burdensome. They have delayed the transfer of critical capabilities to our partners and allies.”
Camarillo said the Army is “piggybacking” on the Pentagon’s six FMS reform proposals released in June. The State Department, tasked with reviewing and approving arms sales, has also launched a similar effort.
Taiwan in particular has frequently complained of a roughly $19 billion FMS backlog in U.S. equipment it wishes to purchase, partially because of the inherent bureaucracies in the process and because of production lags in the defense-industrial base.
James Hursch, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said some of the central issues the Pentagon identified include the need for better coordination with foreign partners to identify their needs; a broader education for the security cooperation workforce; and revisions to the technology security and foreign disclosure processes.
Hursch also noted foreign partners buying equipment the U.S. military no longer procures for itself poses challenges.
Camarillo said the Army’s efforts “are entirely consummate with the findings and direction” of the broader Pentagon reform effort.
The Army’s initiatives include developing “more clear standards and metrics” for tracking arms sales; speeding up the contracting of items that foreign partners seek to buy; improving workforce development; and figuring out how the service can help improve the tech transfer review process, Camarillo added.
“Because the Army’s materiel is often siloed into a variety of different stovepipes, it is very difficult for us to make a common sight picture, a repository of prior decisions,” Camarillo explained. “The ability to be able to provide technical information to greatly streamline these issues as they come up to the tech transfer process — I think we can internally organize in a way that would streamline that in a fundamental way.”
He said the Army is also revising its polices to provide “more transparency with industry.”
And he noted that emergency contracting authorities Congress provided the Pentagon last year have allowed the Army to move much more quickly on critical munitions procurement, increasing production capacity and backfilling U.S. stockpiles sent to Ukraine.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.