U.S. Reputation Goes Long Way Worldwide
February 10, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The reputation of the U.S. and its Army stands tall with foreign governments.
And when it comes to selling U.S. helicopters, missiles, tanks and other equipment to allied nations, that reputation goes a long way to meeting the nation's security assistance goals.
Maj. Gen. Del Turner, commander of the Security Assistance Command headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, spoke about the nation's security assistance program during the annual meeting of the North Alabama International Trade Association on Jan. 25. Turner's appearance before some 200 business leaders at the Westin Hotel was his first public presentation in Huntsville since assuming command about five months ago.
Turner emphasized that the U.S. is known worldwide for the quality of equipment, training and sustainment. When allies purchase U.S. military equipment, foreign leaders say "we know we are getting whatever you advertise as the capability and you will stand by it," he said.
Turner's previous assignment as the program manager for the Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program gave him insight into the U.S. foreign military sales program, which has aided him in assuming his new responsibilities.
"I learned about the tremendous respect that foreign governments hold for the U.S.," he said, adding it is vital to U.S. security strategies to take the time and effort to develop relationships with those countries.
The Security Assistance Command leads the Army Materiel Command's security assistance enterprise. It develops and manages security assistance programs and foreign military sales cases to build ally partner capacity, support combatant command engagement strategies and strengthen U.S. global partnerships.
Besides the military equipment sold to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, "the training and support assistance we've given to the Saudi Arabian National Guard since March 1973 has really paid dividends for our country, for the military and, I'd say, for industry," Turner said.
"It is a model for what security assistance programs should be. … We all benefit from the relationship that we've had for over 39 years. It's a relationship of mutual respect, and of them being exposed to American values and their trust in us to deliver what we say we'll deliver."
There was a time when Saudi Arabia bought Mi17s and Mi35s from Russia. But on April 5, 2010, the Saudi government decided to go with all U.S. aircraft for its three National Guard aviation brigades, amounting to the purchase of 54 helicopters and the support network of maintenance, parts, facilities, training and sustainment that goes along with them.
"I've had a lot of experience that tells me relationships are extremely important" to decisions involving foreign military sales, Turner said, adding that the U.S. has military, diplomatic and economic access to Saudi Arabia because of the security assistance relationship that has been built over years.
The relationships that U.S. companies have with foreign governments also help to promote the U.S. security assistance program.
"I want to facilitate your relationships to foreign military so you can get in and further my goals in establishing relationships," Turner told the international business group.
"You want to sell your products, make money and strengthen the bond you have with existing partners. When you are selling overseas and engaged with leaders overseas, you are helping the U.S. Your engagement in relationships with them furthers the interest of the U.S."
The U.S. military along with industry partners provide a security assistance enterprise to support a foreign military sales program that makes the Security Assistance Command "the Army's face to the world."
"FMS is a means to an end and it's going to become more and more important as foreign military sales of equipment and training become an important part of our military strategy," Turner said.
The Department of Defense is one of 24 U.S. government agencies involved in foreign assistance, with others including the state department as well as energy, health and human resources and transportation organizations. The Security Assistance Command has about 430 employees at Redstone Arsenal who are involved with case development, training and logistical management support of military systems that foreign governments have bought from the U.S. The command further benefits from the efforts of security assistance management directorates within other Army Materiel Command major subordinate commands.
"The Aviation and Missile Command, with its end to end sustainment, is very much involved with fielding to foreign militaries," Turner said.
The Security Assistance Command interfaces with 140 armies, 45 air forces, 25 navies, one marine unit and 26 other foreign entities. So far in fiscal 2012, the command has negotiated nearly $14 billion in foreign military sales, with that figure expected to rise to $17-21 billion with the year end.
"That's very good news here. … About 75 percent of that $14 billion in sales we've done this year is missile and aviation. It's had a big effect on that industry," Turner said.
Foreign military sales cases begin with a letter of request from a U.S. ally and close two years after the last supply action. Many cases will run 10, 15 or 20 years.
Currently, the Security Assistance Command is working with 145 countries on 4,642 foreign military sales cases. There are $134 billion worth of cases now in some stage of the foreign military sales process, with about $65 billion of value yet to be delivered. The command also has 35-40 teams deployed in training actions associated with foreign military sales cases around the world.
"We take a total package approach to a foreign military sales case that includes material, spare parts, training, publications, technical documentation, maintenance support and other services," Turner said. "Everything comes with the full backing of the U.S. government and the countries enjoy the fact they are getting full capability."
During his comments, Turner joked that he has been called "Mr. FMS" and "The Army's used car salesman," references made to his leadership of an organization focused on selling new as well as excess equipment to foreign governments.
"But they are really envious," Turner said of other Army officers, "because we are the only growth industry in the Army right now and in DoD."
Joking aside, he said the Security Assistance Command is "dedicated to building partner capacity, and building and strengthening relationships with foreign militaries. This is the most unique time since post-World War II Europe. It is a time when we are building two armies and police forces (in Iraq and Afghanistan), supporting coalition partners in Afghanistan and operating worldwide at a record op-tempo."