The Department of Defense intends to overhaul the Foreign Military Sales program to alleviate long-standing bureaucratic hurdles.
- The overhaul is based on recommendations by a “Tiger Team” of DoD senior experts.
- A DoD FMS Continuous Process Improvement Board has been established to implement the Tiger Team’s recommendations.
After many years of frustration, on June 13, 2023, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced its decision to optimize the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. This announcement incorporates recommendations proposed by an internal DoD task force and follows the release of a 10-point plan to improve the FMS program by the Department of State. Together, these changes aim to alleviate some of the bureaucratic hurdles of the key stakeholders involved in the FMS program.
The FMS program, overseen by the State Department and implemented by the DoD, is one of the two primary methods foreign governments use to purchase U.S. defense articles and services. As one of the key groups of security assistance programs authorized under Title 22 of the U.S. Code, FMS is considered a “fundamental tool” of U.S. foreign policy and national security. According to the State Department, on average, FMS generates nearly $45 billion annually in new sales of arms, training and equipment. In FY 2022, FMS resulted in $51.9 billion in implemented transactions, representing a 49% increase from 2021 – 2022.
The announced changes come after years of complaints from foreign government customers and U.S. industry to the U.S. government as to the bureaucratic hurdles and overall slowness associated with the FMS program. Indeed, in 2017, senior DoD officials began trying to implement initiatives—the “Adaptive Acquisition Framework”—to expedite FMS sales by eliminating a one-size-fits-all acquisition model. Notwithstanding these attempts, FMS timeliness continues to be frustratingly slow. The length of time to outfit our allies with U.S. defense articles and services raises serious concerns within the DoD. This is highlighted by both the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine and the need to counter the increasingly emerging threats from China and Iran.
At least partially in response to this, in August 2022, the DoD created an FMS task force—the “Tiger Team.” Comprising senior experts across the DoD, the Tiger Team is tasked with addressing the “historic inefficiencies” frustrating the FMS process. Intending to enhance collaboration with America’s global allies and partners and further promote the goals set forth in the Biden administration’s 2022 National Defense Strategy, the Tiger Team has made the following six categories of recommendations:
- Improve understanding of ally and partner requirements. Among other things, this recommendation would establish a Defense Security Cooperation Service comparable to that of the Defense Attaché Service.
- Enable efficient reviews for release of technology. This category targets the need to reduce barriers to exporting key technologies and capabilities, as well as some inefficiencies of outdated policies.
- Provide allies and partner nations with relevant priority capabilities. This will include developing a methodology to facilitate Non-Programs of Record to enable U.S. allies and partners to better support their individual national security requirements.
- Accelerate acquisition and contracting support. This will include establishing contract award standards and metrics and developing associated processes maps to monitor FMS prioritization and award processes.
- Expand Defense Industrial Base (DIB) capacity. This will include developing a comprehensive study to incentivize DIB investment in production capacity and building surge capabilities for high-demand, low-supply platforms, systems and services. This strategy will include use of multi-year contracts, enhanced use of the Special Defense Acquisition Fund, five-year predictive analyses of partner demand, and sustained engagement with the DIB.
- Ensure broad U.S. government support. FMS will continue to be a collaborative effort between the Departments of Defense and State, Congress, and other stakeholders throughout the U.S. government.
These recommendations are the result of feedback from allies and partners in the United States. DIB and FMS case studies, which, together, highlighted systematic challenges and best practices engaged in the FMS acquisition process, were also used. To implement these changes, the DoD has established an FMS Continuous Process Improvement Board (CPIB), reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense.
While it remains to be seen whether these recommendations will accelerate the FMS process, if implemented, they will be a step in the right direction.