WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – American partner Country X wants to upgrade its Air Force in order to strengthen air defenses and protect its international interests. It decides to purchase F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets along with life cycle logistics support to ensure aircraft operations for years to come. The Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, headquartered here, is there to work with the partner nation and make the F-16 sale a reality.
While this scenario does not represent any particular country, it does highlight the fact that AFSAC is the leader of the Air Force’s Foreign Military Sales enterprise, including the sale of aircraft, parts, equipment, munitions, construction, and anything else required to deliver airpower capabilities to our 108 partner nations around the world.
In fiscal year 2015 alone, AFSAC totaled $19 billion in sales, which was nearly a 95 percent increase from the previous year.
Brig. Gen. Gregory Gutterman, director of AFSAC, expressed that conducting FMS between the U.S. Government and our foreign partners is mutually beneficial.
“Every operational mission flown by a coalition partner is one less the U.S. Air Force has to fly,” said Gutterman. “More importantly, our Air Force and other military services are much more effective when operating as a joint coalition team and FMS enables that teamwork. The friendships and partnerships FMS builds on a day-to-day basis are invaluable and help support our country’s long-term goals of promoting democracy, political stability, and peace around the globe.”
Gutterman added that not only does FMS provide our partner nations with the capability to defend its citizens and support our global coalitions, but it creates U.S. military interoperability which increases our military’s global reach and defense capabilities.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James recently issued a new directive with the goal of improving and speeding up the FMS process. This initiative was inspired by many of her recent trips to foreign countries around the globe where she heard a common theme among our foreign partners that they felt the United States FMS process was too slow.
According to Gutterman, AFSAC is working diligently to meet Secretary James’s new goal, which is to reduce the time it takes from receipt of initial requirement to making an offer to country by 10 percent within the next fiscal year.
“Many factors can influence the cycle time of an FMS case (country involved, weapon system requested, support requirements, etc.), for example, on average it takes about five years from the day AFSAC receives a request for an aircraft purchase until the day the aircraft touches down on the partner nation’s runway,” Gutterman said.
AFSAC is involved in numerous efforts to improve FMS cycle times, one of which is being led by the Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs to implement additional training for our Security Cooperation Officers serving around the world. These officers work directly with partner nations to help them develop FMS requirements, so investing in SCO training, particularly in the acquisitions area, will prove beneficial.
“We spend a large percentage of our time just trying to figure out what the partner wants,” said Gutterman. “A properly trained and equipped SCO can assist a partner in developing better and more thorough initial requirements, thereby reducing one of our highest drivers of the timeline: requirements instability.”
AFSAC is also pursuing additional training initiatives such as an FMS-specific course for AFSAC Foreign Liaison Officers (foreign officers from our partner nations who exclusively work FMS), U.S Air Force Program Executive Officers and selected industry partners.
“In order for the FMS process to improve, we must integrate and synchronize activities across the primary stakeholders,” said Gutterman. “The F-16 program provides a perfect example. Nearly every U.S. Air Force PEO and Life Cycle Management organization is involved in the delivery of an F-16 aircraft to an international partner. The Fighter/Bomber PEO acquires aircraft, the Weapons PEO acquires aircraft munitions, the Propulsion Directorate acquires and supports aircraft engines, the Agile Combat Support PEO acquires support equipment, and AFSAC oversees long-term sustainment along with any FMS construction requirements. We need an integrating function in order to synchronize the many activities occurring in parallel across the PEOs and Life Cycle Management Directorates. We have had instances where aircraft munitions are ready for delivery to a country, but the construction teams have not finished building required munitions storage facilities.”
Gutterman explained that although the FMS process can always improve, the complexity of the enterprise itself will always remain.
“This is the most complex business I’ve been a part of in my Air Force career,” he said. “There are so many stakeholders, with each one focusing on a specific part of the FMS process; i.e., Technology Transfer, Foreign Disclosure requirements, Congressional Notification and approval, Arms Export Control Act provisions, and more.”
The general expressed his pride for how hard his team has worked to improve the FMS enterprise and provide customers high quality support.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team,” he said. “The airpower capabilities we provide to our global partners around the world enables them to provide their people a blanket of security and freedom. I contend that children across the globe sleep safely at night because of the work my team does each and every day.”