WASHINGTON — The Pentagon aims to speed up its lagging Foreign Military Sales process, in part by fostering better discussions with other nations about their defense needs as well as expanding industry’s capacity to build more military equipment.

Defense officials at the Pentagon on Tuesday announced six recommendations on how the department plans to speed up foreign military sales, which also include streamlining the processes for reviewing and releasing technology to allies and partner nations; finding ways to speed up the approval of non-programs of record cases; better mapping out the process for prioritizing and awarding foreign sales; and working with the State Department, lawmakers and other parts of the government to find more ways to improve the process.

“Our allies and partners are a center of gravity and the greatest strategic advantage for the U.S. military” as it prepares for a possible conflict against an advanced nation, according to Sasha Baker, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

“The [National Defense Strategy] is a call to action for the defense enterprise to incorporate our allies and partners across the board at every stage of defense planning, and obviously FMS has a big role to play in that process,” Baker said in a briefing with reporters.

The United States typically sells tens of billions of dollars of weapons to foreign governments each year, reaching a recent high of $83.5 billion in 2020, before dropping to nearly $35 billion the next year and then growing again to nearly $52 billion in 2022.

But the government’s pace of approving and delivering weapons to nations such as Taiwan has been consistently sluggish, often languishing for months or years, and has drawn the ire of lawmakers and partner nations who want the U.S. to move faster.

Baker said the Pentagon’s panel reviewing the FMS process knew it must change how the military does business, noting the department frequently heard from customers that such sales “can be a pain point for them.”

But, she cautioned, there was no single “silver bullet” to fix the process, and the panel settled on an assortment of smaller improvements.

The top change Baker highlighted was to improve how the department talks with ally and partner nations about their military sales needs. To do this, and to cut down on delays in the process, the department plans to set up a new Defense Security Cooperation Service, similar to the existing Defense Attaché Service, as well as make other changes to how it organizes its security cooperation processes.

This new service will ensure security cooperation officers receive training and professional development to “make good choices and decisions” while working with customers, Baker said. Details on the establishment of this new service are not yet determined.

Having a stronger understanding of what foreign customers need will also help expand the capacity of the defense-industrial base, Baker said, by giving defense firms a better idea of what ally and partner nations require in the years to come.

Baker said the industrial base expansion strategy will include a greater use of multiyear contracts, the Special Defense Acquisition Fund and five-year analyses that predict what customers’ needs.

The Pentagon has already moved to make multiyear purchases of key munitions, for example, as efforts to arm Ukraine and other partner nations have in many cases stretched America’s supply of munitions thin and maxed out the industrial base’s production capacity.

“We can’t produce things on cold lines, where we just don’t have the production capacity,” said Radha Plumb, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Plumb said the Pentagon’s effort to encourage the defense-industrial base to expand production capacity — such as building surge capacity for high-demand, low-supply systems and munitions — will complement its goal of improving the FMS process and creating a greater supply for foreign customers.

This “will also allow us to provide a clear demand signal for industry as they plan for production expansions and work with us on systems of interest for foreign partners, as well as for our own systems,” Plumb said.

While the weapons and supplies the United States has provided to Ukraine are not foreign military sales, Plumb noted, several of the same issues have cropped up in discussions about how to speed up that nation’s security assistance.

Baker also said the Pentagon must create more ways for customers to clearly communicate with the U.S. about the status of their FMS requests. Too often, she explained, foreign nations don’t hear anything from the Pentagon for months after submitting a request and are left “in limbo.”

The Pentagon already has the ability to prioritize sales to certain nations, Baker said, but the panel reviewing the FMS process concluded the Pentagon must pay more attention to combatant commanders’ perspectives.

Combatant commanders often hear from partner nations more frequently about the challenges or timing issues they face, and what would most help them, Baker said. But that information can take a while to get back to Washington.

To fix this, the Pentagon has created a monthly meeting on FMS issues, in which combatant commanders can highlight cases that need more attention from senior leaders, or have gone wrong and need to be fixed.

Plumb said the Pentagon plans to map out the FMS prioritization and award process using consistent metrics, so both the government and industry have a clearer picture of what is going on and where potential problems exist.

The Pentagon also has acquisition tools — such as indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts, as well as undefinitized contract actions — that could allow it to move faster, Plumb said, and the department will look for FMS cases that could benefit from quicker strategies.

The Pentagon also plans to set up a board, headed by Baker and Plumb, to continually look at the highest-priority FMS cases and process improvements to avoid stalled requests.

Baker said this board will also provide senior leaders a better, data-driven view of where logjams are occurring.

“Where is the system blinking red?” Baker said. “Is it a particular region? Is it a type of capability? Is it on the production side? Is it on the precontracting side? … A lot of the data exists, but it’s not particularly easy for senior leaders to get … their hands on it.”

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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