By Richard BumgardnerJuly 25, 2019
WASHINGTON -- The Security Assistance Command, along with members of the Army security assistance enterprise, hosted their Royal Saudi Land Force allies at the fifth Grand Security Assistance Review, July 15-19.
A grand SAR combines aviation, armor, training and ordnance program reviews, traditionally held at different times and locations, to provide a cost effective alternative that has the added benefit of bringing key U.S. and Saudi representatives under one roof to solve logistical, technical, training and administrative issues.
"This is the biggest country in our Army foreign military sales portfolio and largest FMS portfolio in the Department of Defense," Leslie Davis, a division director at Central Command Regional Operations at USASAC, said. "Saudi Arabia is at war, so it is critical that we are meeting their security assistance requirements and supporting them as they continue to defend their country and meet their strategic and operational goals."
Supporting those goals with a customer 7,000 miles away, on a different work schedule and cycle, make even simple problems difficult to solve in a timely manner.
Some of the more complex FMS cases have hundreds of individual line items, sometimes worth millions of dollars each.
"These once a year, face-to-face, meetings are critical," Conrad Bonner, the deputy director of Central Command Regional Operations at USASAC, said. "When we are able to get together, we are able to solve funding problems, we can solve scheduling and delivery problems, and we are able to get decisions directly from the Saudi and U.S. commanders on the way to proceed forward."
While weekly VTCs and daily emails can help to resolve some of the problems that FMS program and case managers might encounter, Bonner went on to say that bringing the subject matter experts, the technical assistance staff and decision-makers together, under one roof, eliminated hours upon hours of work and hundreds of emails, to be able to "right set" all of their programs.
As large FMS cases typically span years between signing an initial letter of requirements and delivery of the system, it's common to do routine housekeeping on case management.
"Like in Saudi Arabia's case, the requirements changed," Bonner said. "Once you go to war, or you are in a time of conflict, you need something a lot quicker than you would have needed it before. Or you have discovered that you now have something that you need different. Then we have to go through the process of doing contract mods, being able to shift funding around, and to do that, we have to have the LORs and gain appropriate approvals."
During the executive breakfast, Maj. Gen Jeffrey Drushal, the commander of USASAC, said this was the most effective grand SAR in years. He said he attributed this to the personal leadership of Lt. Gen. Fahad Abdullah al-Mutair, commander of the RSLF, and complimented the staff on both sides of the table.
Bonner, whose team at USASAC had the bulk of the planning and preparation work on the U.S. government side of the grand SAR, felt the months of effort were worth the results.
"These events take weeks and months' worth of preparations and coordination to pull them together," he said. "The team sees the fruits of their labors as we are getting decisions, we are getting funding, we are getting actions needed to keep cases on course, so they are very happy, tired but happy."
Army security assistance and foreign military sales are intended to build partner capacity and interoperability. The grand SAR helps strengthen relationships, which promotes long-term mutual interests.