As part of ongoing efforts to improve its bureaucratic foreign military sales process, the US Air Force has established a set of weapon system baselines to accelerate export approvals for select countries.
While the USAF secretary and chief recently signed a memo to improve the service’s role in the FMS process, the 15 weapon system baselines were already in the works before criticism of US government-brokered arms sales bubbled over at the Dubai air show last year.
Each baseline establishes which countries are approved for certain technologies or weapons, as well as a list of technologies the US refuses to export.
The reform takes a proactive approach on FMS, especially as the US develops new radar technology that could be useful to allies, the USAF’s under-secretary of international affairs, Heidi Grant, said this week. Under the new initiatives, the USAF secretary has directed the service to decrease the average processing time for a letter of acceptance, which can take between six and nine months, by 10% or a month faster.
“We’re being proactive before a country even asks for technology,” she says. “What’s that done is very quickly we can say yes or no. It’s the ‘maybe’ that takes a little bit longer.”
In another effort to streamline FMS, the air force is working with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to increase training for USAF security cooperation officers. Although the FMS process can break down at several points between agencies or countries, the gears often gum up in the beginning with the requirements the security cooperation officers help build. The USAF needs better qualified SCOs with the applicable language skills, cultural acumen and academic background, according to Grant. The new FMS training program and review will mirror the USAF’s competitive air attache selection process, she says.
“Instead right now, say you want a fighter pilot that’s a colonel that speaks Arabic. So we’ll put a fighter pilot that’s a colonel, but doesn’t speak Arabic,” she says. “Or we don’t have enough fighter pilots, so we send an Arabic [speaking] logistician. So I’m trying to do more to get the fit to meet the requirements of the [combatant command] and concentrate.”
Outside the government, Grant is calling on industry to stabilise their requirements. Today, new requirements often creep into a programme even after a letter of request is submitted, stretching out the timeline, Grant says. The US has already asked its own air force to establish a cutoff point where no new requirements can arise and is now asking partners to do the same, she says.