Negotiation skills critical for foreign military sales
Curtis Thomas, left, and Cole Sautter, employees of the Security Assistance Command, practice a role-playing exercise using skills they learned during a negotiations training class presented at the command Feb. 27.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Negotiations play an important role in how the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command conducts its business, and a recent negotiations training class designed to enhance their skills in this area was held Feb. 27 for USASAC personnel.

The command's country program managers are responsible for working agreements, or Letters of Offer and Acceptance, for Foreign Military Sales cases. This requires coordinating with the international partners regarding their requests for specific materiel, and coordinating with other Army security assistance enterprise organizations, including the combatant commands, which determine priorities for countries in their regions, to develop a case offer.

Factors like availability, pricing, etc., which the Army Materiel Command's life cycle management commands' security assistance management directorates and the program executive offices support, may not meet a country's specific requests, so adjustments, or negotiations may be required. These "back-and-forth" communications with the country are the responsibility of USASAC personnel, who are responsible for completing the LOAs and any future changes or modifications that may be required.

"We all 'negotiate' every day… in our personal and professional lives," USASAC commander Maj. Gen. Del Turner noted in a message to the work force. "That is especially true of our work at USASAC where we interact with so many outside our HQs in trying to synchronize all the activities required to run an effective security assistance program … and in our interactions with our foreign partners."

The negotiations training class was conducted by James Heffernan, LLC. Heffernan is also an adjunct professor at the Army War College, where negotiations strategies are part of the curriculum.

Heffernan stated his goal early. "I want you to view things differently so you get out of your comfort zone," he said. Heffernan explained that typically, positional negotiations are used to get "what we want." He described negotiation outcomes as being incorrectly viewed as a fixed pie, or "what you get comes at a direct cost to me," and "give me what I want or else." Instead, he demonstrated how to minimize "bargaining," and instead focus on principle, or interest-based negotiations.

But Heffernan's method of training was not limited to a classroom lecture. Instead, he included role playing exercises and other interactive methods that allowed the USASAC participants to "test their skills" with their co-workers. Heffernan particularly emphasized that good negotiating is a skill that comes from preparation and experience:

"It's a process that you practice," he said.

"This (negotiations class) is something that will make me a more well-rounded employee," Jason Evans, a country program manager with USASAC's EUCOM Regional Directorate, said.

Evans volunteered to negotiate for one side in an exercise that had him negotiating with another USASAC employee. Heffernan praised Evans' proactive recognition of the other side's "value" and his focus on BATNA, or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

Heffernan also discussed how a country's culture can impact negotiations.

"I really do a completely different class for OPM-SANG (Office of the Program Manager for the Saudi Arabia National Guard Modernization Program) because culture defines so much of what they must do," he added.

Heffernan stressed that communicating with customers in a manner that gains insight to their interests instead of focusing on their positions facilitates the creation of long-term relationships, mutual trust and commitments that are essential to doing business with foreign partners.

Said Turner, "I really think the training would more appropriately be called Communication Strategies because it addresses how to better communicate more effectively and listen to others."

The negotiations class is one of many training classes that have been instituted by USASAC during the past year to develop a highly qualified Army security assistance enterprise work force. This is a line of effort under the Security Assistance Command's Strategic Plan and is aligned with AMC's Strategic Plan and its goal to cultivate a trained and ready work force.

Page last updated Mon March 4th, 2013 at 14:28