District’s Traditional Foreign Military Sales Role Returning

Middle East District
Published April 12, 2012

WINCHESTER, Va. – In Jordan, the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center with realistic settings, sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield, providing state-of-the-art training to special operations and security forces from Jordan, the United States and regional allies committed to fighting terrorism …

In Egypt, more than 30 years working with Egyptian defense forces to upgrade facilities that support purchases of military aircraft, naval vessels and related systems from the U.S., and procurement of various kinds of construction, medical, maintenance, and material handling equipment – all aimed at enhancing Egypt's defense capabilities …

In Iraq, construction of F-16 and C-130 infrastructure, facility upgrades, a military training complex, warehouses, and other facilities...

In Saudi Arabia during the 1970s and 1980s, an unprecedented $14 billion program that encompassed planning, design, and construction of military cantonments, headquarters complexes, military schools, navy bases, and other facilities related to the Kingdom's modernization program of its defense facilities …

These programs are examples of the Middle East District's support to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers international mission through the foreign military sales program. FMS had traditionally been the larger portion of the district's workload before the tragic events of 9/11 changed the world. The next decade brought a military construction focus to the district's work in the Middle East and Central Asia regions.

The FMS program is one of the mechanisms available for the U.S. government to provide assistance to foreign governments. It is a component of the Defense Department's security assistance program, authorized and regulated by U.S. law.

That process provides for U.S. assistance to friendly foreign nations, specifically for military education and training, peacekeeping operations, counter-terrorism and counternarcotics. Through FMS, the U.S. government can sell articles and services, including engineering and construction, to foreign governments' defense establishments.

"As a principle element of U.S. foreign policy, the security assistance program was designed to promote regional stability and support mutual goals and security objectives," said Rich Dickson, Program and Project Management Division's FMS Branch Chief.

"An important concept about FMS to keep in mind is that we would never have a foreign military sales case that does not support the goals of the United States," said Roger Thomas, Construction Operations Division chief.

While the Defense Security Cooperation Agency carries out the security assistance program, including administering the FMS program, the State Department has program oversight, according to USACE headquarters' Adam Starks, security assistance case manager for the six combatant command areas of responsibility.

"The State Department also determines which countries are eligible to participate and approves all sales to foreign governments," Starks said.

The FMS process officially begins when the requesting government asks the U.S. government for assistance in obtaining defense articles, military construction, or other services from the United States. This is usually accomplished through a document called a Letter of Request or LOR.

"Oftentimes, we are involved with a foreign customer long before the LOR is developed," Dickson said. "There are times when customers may need technical input before they can determine exactly what they do need and want to request officially. We help determine those requirements when needed."

Once the process is complete and both countries have agreed, they sign a Letter of Offer and Acceptance.

While there are several types of FMS cases, USACE is most often involved in three types: construction, technical services, and major equipment.

There are two ways that USACE could be involved with FMS – as case manager or as line manager on an FMS case held by another agency.

As examples, the Middle East District was the FMS case manager for the construction sales case to design and build the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Jordan.

Second, since the early 1980s, the district has been involved with FMS cases providing F-16 aircraft to Egypt through various phases of the Peace Vector program. The case manager is the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command, and USACE is a line manager for construction, providing the facilities to support the aircraft purchases.

As a third example, the district is the case manager for the equipment sales cases providing equipment procurements to Egypt.

Whether case or line manager, the district designs and constructs the infrastructure necessary to support equipment sales and military operations.

According to Thomas, FMS cases are funded in various ways, with three main funding types.

  • Cash, where national funds from the purchasing country are collected in advance
  • Credit, which would be repayable loans or non-repayable grants
  • Foreign military financing through FMS credit funding, also non-repayable.

"FMS cases could be our potential future, with a rapid return to 70 or 80 percent of the district's workload," said Thomas.

Customer communication points to a surge in FMS cases in the months and years to come, and the district has already begun seeing an increase in potential FMS cases.

"Our workload is shifting back to a more traditional program focused on foreign military sales," said the Deputy for Programs and Project Management Deborah Duncan.

To better meet the anticipated future workload, Duncan realigned her division's branches.

"In order to develop all potential opportunities, each of the four Project Management branches has now been assigned responsibility for a part of the FMS program instead of having FMS work performed by one branch only," she said.

"This solution increases FMS expertise and employee knowledge, while better serving our FMS customers," Duncan said.

Foreign government agencies may also request engineering assistance for non-defense projects. For civil construction, they follow the Foreign Assistance Act, Section 607, process, which also requires a Letter of Request followed by a Letter of Acceptance or Memorandum of Agreement.

"The Middle East District's engagement with FMS services within the Middle East and Central Asia supports the overall Department of Defense strategy and plays a vital role in the region as the district executes a record number of projects in the region," Starks said.