By Kelley Lane-Sivley, Redstone Rocket StaffOctober 29, 2008
When international allies are looking to supply their forces with top of the line equipment, they turn to those who have the equipment regarded by many as the best in the world. They buy American. U.S. Army Security Assistance Command oversees those foreign military sales from beginning to end.
"You see how respected the U.S. military is," Col. Catherine Lacina, USASAC chief of staff, said. "These countries really want to be able to interoperate with us. They want the same equipment that we have. We really do lead the world, I think, in a lot of the technology and the quality of equipment we provide."
USASAC has been a major subordinate of Army Materiel Command since the mid-1970s. In fact, they are in the process of moving from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Redstone alongside AMC as part of base realignment and closure. Currently they are located next door to AMC in a temporary location off Redstone Road. They will still be next door when AMC moves to their permanent facility. USASAC's new building is being constructed as part of the new AMC complex on Martin Road.
They work closely with the State Department, Congress, the White House and the Treasury Department. Charged with the life cycle management of foreign military sales, they also work closely with program managers and executive offices - many of which are already located at Redstone Arsenal.
"I think we'll fit in very well. We already have a security assistance for foreign military sales element that we work with closely out of AMCOM," Lacina said. "Now we're just closer to that organization. We work with a lot of PEOs and PMs. Here at Redstone you have missiles and space, and the aviation community."
While the aviation portion of their business is probably the highest profile, it is not all they do. Lacina explained that the equipment eagerly sought after by foreign governments is much broader in scope.
"It's equipment and services," she said. "It's all the standard equipment that the Army gets. We provide helmets, weapons, ammunition, trucks - any Army equipment that we are allowed to sell. There are limits to what we can provide them."
USASAC is an Army agency, but they do business with all branches from other nations. They are working with about 140 nations. Lacina said it is hard to find nations they aren't working with. The quantity of equipment isn't always indicative of the impact it has on the purchasing country. Seeing the impact a small amount of equipment can have on a nation is one of the best parts of the job, according to Lacina.
"You see how important it is to our coalition nations and allies, even though foreign military sales are a small portion of what AMC does," she said. "You provide trucks to a small country in Africa and it makes a huge amount of difference in how their security forces can do their mission... Getting two trucks to Jamaica is just as important to us as getting 10 Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia. It makes a big difference to them."
The war has dramatically increased the workload USASAC is churning out. Lacina said it has been a real challenge to support that greater need while undergoing a major move.
"In the last couple years, because of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other factors, our business has skyrocketed. We are doing a huge amount of business that we have never done before," she said. "I'd say that for the past 10 years we've averaged about $3.5 billion worth of foreign military sales for the Army. Last year we did $14.5 billion of new sales for the Army."
Currently, USASAC is working with split operations while they are in the moving process. Three of the four regional operations components dealing with FMS have made the move. One is still doing business out of Fort Belvoir, as is the component specifically dealing with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"A lot of those folks have not chosen yet to move to Huntsville," Lacina said. "We actually have split operations in our regional operations. A portion of our plans section is here. A portion of our policy section is here. The PAO is here. The EEO is here. We have a little bit of everything here."
Approximately 60 of its employees are working on post. Assessments are still being made to see how many employees at Fort Belvoir will be moving as part of the next wave. A large number of new hires will also be joining the organization at Redstone in the coming months.
"We had a lot of employees back at Fort Belvoir who have chosen not to move," Lacina said. "So we've had a lot of vacancies and we're hiring. It's rather exciting actually. We're getting some of the experience from Redstone with people who actually know a little bit about the business. It's always good for an organization to get some new blood and new ideas in."
Since they are in the process of moving, USASAC is using the opportunity to study how their agency works. The final number of people and offices making the move will be determined by the study results.
"Our new building is being built to house 367, which is our entire command," Lacina said. "Right now, though, we are going through sort of an organizational redesign. We're studying efficiency to see what can be gained."