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DoD FMS Tiger Team and DoS FMS 2023 Recommendations

Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) Sasha Baker and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Acquisition and Sustainment Radha Plumb announced DoD's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) "Tiger Team"…

DoD FMS Tiger Team and DoS FMS 2023 Recommendations

DoD FMS Tiger Team and DoS FMS 2023 Recommendations
Frank Kenlon (Prof of Int'l Acq, DAU/DSMC-Int'l)
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) Sasha Baker and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Acquisition and Sustainment Radha Plumb announced DoD's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) "Tiger Team" recommendations in a Pentagon press briefing on June 13, 2023. The Team's efforts identified six key “pressure points” in the FMS process.

DoD FMS Tiger Team Recommendations

1) Improving DoD's understanding of ally and partner requirements:

  • Establish a new Defense Security Cooperation Service on par with the Defense Attaché Service.
  • Improve Security Cooperation Officer (SCO) training focusing on FMS pre-Letter of Request efforts.
  • Include additional case studies as part of Defense Security Cooperation University training.

2) Enabling efficient reviews for release of technology:

  • Create more effective, repeatable systems and processes for FMS-related U.S. Government (USG)/DoD Technology Security and Foreign Disclosure (TSFD) policy decision making.
  • Achieve greater efficiency in TSFD decisions that affect allied/friendly nation FMS acquisitions.
  • Provide SCOs and Global Combatant Commander (CoCOM) staff with training on TSFD policies and procedures.
  • Contribute to ongoing USG interagency efforts focused on TSFD decision making.

3) Providing allies and partner nations relevant priority capabilities

  • Improve DoD's ability to facilitate FMS-related Non-Program of Record (NPOR) acquisition programs.
  • Develop DoD-wide standards and timelines for NPOR FMS cases.
  • Assess the utility of a dedicated FMS contracting construct for NPORs.
  • Evaluate DoD's NPOR policy, categories, and processes to ensure best practices are adopted.
  • Require formal discussions with partner nations on U.S. grant-funded capability requirements.
  • Prioritize deliveries of high demand/low supply munitions for the U.S. and partners.

4) Accelerating DoD acquisition and contracting support

  • Establish contract award standards/metrics and monitor the FMS prioritization and award process.
  • Seek Congressional support to establish a Defense Exportability Transfer Account.
  • Prioritize FMS production capacity for multiple FMS requirements that exceed U.S. production capacity.

5) Expanding Defense Industrial Base (DIB) capacity

  • Incorporate ally/partner nation requirements into DoD's plans to expand DIB production capacity.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy to incentivize DIB investment in production capacity and building surge capability for high-demand, low-supply platforms, systems, munitions, and services.

6) Ensuring broad U.S. Government support for FMS efforts

  • Establish an FMS Continuous Process Improvement Board (CPIB), which will act as an enduring governance structure within the Department.
  • Establish the Security Cooperation Execution Focus Forum (SCEFF) to forward major FMS case challenges to senior leadership for discussion and resolution.
  • Establish enhanced business processes/metrics for each FMS process stage.
  • Leverage FMS case data for real time awareness to monitor cases in FMS-related IT systems.

Department of State FMS 2023 Initiative

Prior to the announcement of DoD Tiger Team results, the Department of State (DoS) Bureau of Political-Military Affairs announced its "FMS 2023: Retooling Foreign Military Sales for An Age of Strategic Competition" initiative on May 18, 2023. The DoS Fact Sheet states the FMS 2023 initiative will pursue "a new 10-point plan of action to re-tool the Department of State’s oversight of FMS" focusing on the 5% of FMS cases reviewed and approved by DoS "which entail complex policy issues and extensive interagency coordination." The following FMS 2023 Initiatives will focus on improving the efficiency and competitiveness of FMS from "strategic planning to case adjudication, to administering implementation of current and future FMS cases" in the following areas:

Improving FMS Adjudication

1. Developing a Regional Approach to Arms Transfers by making anticipatory policy decisions for a sets of countries in a region when one nation in that region submits an FMS purchase request to the USG.

2. Prioritizing cases for FMS Based on National Security Strategy (NSS) Goals by providing expedited planning assistance to partners identified as priorities in the NSS and other key USG/DoD planning documents.

3. Promoting Use of Special Defense Acquisition Fund (SDAF) by identifying key capabilities in demand by multiple partners to accelerate delivery timelines for all prospective FMS purchaser of U.S. systems/equipment in high demand.

4. Refining implementation of the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Export Policy by refining internal DoS processes for adjudicating potential UAS FMS and other U.S. defense sales or transfers.

5. Improving Security Cooperation Officer Performance by expanded and enhanced training to improve their ability to develop proposed FMS cases.

6. Working with Congress on the Congressional Notification process by exploring process improvements with our committees of jurisdiction to improve the quality of our consultations.

7. Modernizing the Congressional Notification Process by eliminating duplicative reporting to Congress and prioritizing consultations on critical potential arms transfers while maintaining transparency on Congressionally notified FMS cases.

Forward Looking Support to FMS Implementation and Future Cases

8. Limiting Special Security Arrangements (SSAs) by reducing the overuse of SSAs while maintaining appropriate technology security measures using standard FMS security procedures.

9. Streamlining Internal Processes to Avoid Delays and Manage Expectations by reassuring Allies and partners in the viability of FMS to maintain awareness of changes in case status and advise them of any potential delays.

10. Pursuing Ongoing Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy Working Group (WG) Initiatives that designed to: a) address longstanding challenges facing innovative and flexible financing mechanisms; b) improve the process for procuring Non-Program of Record platforms; c) building exportability into DoD's system's and equipment development process; and d) improve technology security and releasability processes.

Comparative Analysis

As one would expect, there are identifiable areas of convergence – some direct matches with other partial matches -- between the DoD FMS Tiger Team and DoS FMS 2023 initiatives:

  • Improving Security Cooperation Officer (SCO) Training (DoD #1; DoS #5)
  • Enabling USG/DoD TSFD Reviews (DoD #2; DoS #10)
  • Improving FMS Non-Program of Record (NPOR) Performance (DoD #3; DoS #10)
  • Accelerating DoD acquisition and contracting support (DoD #4; DoS #3, 9, 10)
  • Expanding Defense Industrial Base (DIB) capacity (DoD #5; DoS #9, 10)
  • Ensuring Broad Support for USG for FMS efforts (DoD #6; DoS #1, 8, 9, 10)

Note that some of the DoS FMS 2023 initiatives are not mentioned in this list. Here's why.

While many readers know this, Security Cooperation (SC) and Defense Acquisition organizations and authorities at the top level are 'split' at the top level within DoD. The Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) (USD(P)) is responsible for SC oversight and management while Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition & Sustainment) (A&S) is responsible for oversight and management of DoD Acquisition, both domestic and FMS. Accordingly, from a top level DoD perspective the other DoS FMS 2023 initiatives not included in the "bullet" comparison list above fall into two general areas:

  • Assist both DoD SC and DoD Acquisition (DoS #4, #8)
  • Assist DoD SC (DoS #6, #7)

FMS Case Implementation Impact

DoD's FMS efforts are led by the Defense Security Cooperation (DSCA), which is responsible for SC (FMS is a subset of SC) but not responsible for FMS acquisition, which is accomplished by DoD Component acquisition organizations. The DSCA's DoD Security Assistance Management Manual (SAMM) establishes FMS Implementing Agencies (IAs) to conduct FMS case formulation, generation, establishment, and management activities.

Within the four largest FMS IAs – Army, Navy, Air Force (Space Force), and Missile Defense Agency – both SC and FMS acquisition integration responsibilities within the DoD Component are vested in their International Program Organizations (IPOs), except for Air Force, where SecAF/International Affairs is responsible for SC and SecAF (Acquisition, Technology & Logistics) is responsible for FMS Acquisition. Combination of SC and Acquisition is also the norm within the IPOs of the other, smaller DoD FMS IAs (see Security Assistance Management Manual, Table C.5 T.2.).

In the "real world" of FMS cases, the DoD Component IPOs will be responsible for implementing ALL of the DoD FMS Tiger Team and DoS FMS 2023 recommendations as they pertain to both SC and FMS/Domestic Acquisition responsibilities (U.S. domestic aspects are mentioned in DoD #4 & 5).

As one of my Pentagon mentors used to say often 'back in the day,' "nothing is impossible if some other organization has to do it."

Historical Perspective

One of the more interesting comments made by DUSD Baker during the press briefing focused on past FMS policy and process improvement efforts. She accurately observed that FMS reform efforts have taken place “roughly every 18 months for the last 20 years,” and noted that these past USG and DoD initiatives included many recommendations that were still relevant but not enacted.

She was not exaggerating! Here is a list of "FMS Reform" efforts I have participated in or become aware of since 2010:

  • Defense Reform Initiative – "Security Assistance" restructured as "Security Cooperation" (1997)
  • SecDef Security Cooperation Reform Task Force (2012)
  • Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Security Cooperation Reform (2014-2017)
  • FY 2017 & 2018 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs) which include provisions on SC reform
  • Conventional Arms Transfer Policy (2018) – SC, TSFD & Defense Exportability reforms


If take the time to review these previous FMS reform efforts, you will find many similarities to the past 20 years of USG and DoD FMS reform activities. In fact, all of the DoD FMS Tiger Team and DoS FMS 2023 recommendations have been made before, in some cases several times. Congress has enacted several FMS reform-related provisions during the past as well.

As a participant and careful observer of FMS reform since the mid-1990s, I admit that I'm uncertain whether this is a good thing ... since we're still trying to improve – or a bad thing ... since the problems seem to be intractable and perhaps even insurmountable.

I will be keeping track of how this latest set of FMS reform initiatives unfold, and do my best to remember to report on progress (or lack thereof) over the next year.

Until next time,

Prof K