REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Security assistance liaison officers have played a vital role in the U.S. Army’s Security Assistance Command foreign military sales process since the SALO program’s inception over 30 years ago.
Security assistance liaison officers have played a vital role in the U.S. Army’s Security Assistance Command foreign military sales process since the SALO program’s inception over 30 years ago.At USASAC’s New Cumberland, Pennsylvania office, 16 SALOs from 13 partner nations streamline logistics for their militaries. This involves monitoring military sales cases that can involve hundreds of line items.
SALO Program Manager Terra Good said the continual monitoring of complex cases by a country’s liaison officer is critical to a streamlined, successful process. “They are able to monitor and influence their cases and eliminate small discrepancies before they become major issues that can delay or even halt the process.”
Based on their nation’s priorities, SALOs also track case status, run independent reports for individual analysis and have a significant impact on repair-and-return activity.
Commercial Repair and Return Branch Chief Kelly Gibson and her team meet with SALOs whose countries have a high level of repair-and-return requirements. She said the meetings are time consuming but pay big dividends.
“The Repair and Return Program has many stages, several of which require input from our FMS partners,” said Gibson. “Meeting with them and the central case manager teams regularly facilitate communication and transparency, prevents repairs getting stuck in a stage, and leads to improved repair turnaround times.”
Another way SALOs support logistics is by identifying improvements that could make the FMS process smoother. These concerns and recommendations are addressed with senior leaders during quarterly SALO meetings. In 2018 there were over 15 action items addressed. Today, thanks to SALO involvement and senior leader engagement, that number has been reduced to three action items.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission continued. In March 2020, monthly in-person meetings were replaced with weekly video meetings. In keeping with social distancing mandates, SALOs’ laptops were formatted to access crucial systems during telework, and signup sheets helped maintain accountability when only four SALOs were allowed in the office at a time.
The pandemic did, however, provide the opportunity to receive virtual training from the life cycle management commands, saving the government time and money for travel.
Good said that throughout the pandemic, the SALOs continued to bond like family. As the sole representative for their country, SALOs would arrive without knowing anyone locally. “The SALO chair and I started meeting the SALOs at the airport,” said Good, “because we wanted their arrival to the United States to be special.”
“The SALO community also started delivering welcome baskets of fruits, veggies, waters face masks, games for kids,” said Good. “Today, they continue to support each other and integrate into the Mechanicsburg/New Cumberland community.
Future of the SALO program
Good said she hopes the SALO program will expand to include representatives from other countries in the future.
“Our SALOs help improve transparency within the FMS process, so of course we want our partner nations to experience this opportunity,” she said. “Countries with high value, complex FMS cases are the best fit for a SALO position.”
Good said SALOs are a vital component of the FMS process and helps bolster the U.S. Army’s security assistance mission. For more information about the SALO program and FMS operations, visit www.army.mil/usasac.