By Kris OsbornDecember 17, 2009
The U.S. Army is preparing to step-up materiel transfers of urgently needed war-fighting gear such as HMMWVs, .50 caliber machine guns, boots, ammunition and other supplies to Afghan forces in light of President Barack Obama's Dec. 1 announcement that he will send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to the country.
"We anticipate there will be an urgent push for train-and-equip [in Afghanistan]. It is basic troop equipment, vehicles and vehicles with some kind of armor given the terrain -- along with trailers, generators...etcetera. There is much interest in HMMWVs and MRAPs [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles]," said Keith Webster, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Defense Exports & Cooperation, speaking the day before the President's annoucement.
In FY 2009, the U.S. spent $3.8 billion on equipment and training for Afghan forces, a number expected to rise next year.
In addition, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has granted U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. David Petraeus the authority to conduct direct sales in Afghanistan from the U.S. Army to the Afghan National Army. Direct procurement sales will work in tandem with FMS cases to further expedite the equipping of the Afghan forces.
The stepped up effort comes on the heels of moves to expedite the processing of FMS cases.
"We are trying to turn FMS cases in Afghanistan in 45 days as opposed to the usual 120 days," said Brig. Gen. Chris Tucker, commanding general of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command.
Strengthening Iraqi and Afghan forces is considered vital to the U.S.
exit strategy from both war zones, Army leaders said.
"What [U.S. commanders] are doing to sustain the Iraqi and Afghan forces is equal in importance to sustaining their own force," said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics andTechnology.
Further expansion of FMS could involve the sale of thousands of M113s now stored at Sierra Army Depot in California.
"Can we reduce these stockpiles so that they are revenue generators instead of revenue consumers'" asked Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commanding general of Army Materiel Command.
"We will build Iraq's and Afghanistan's capacity through the FMS program," she said.
The Army's Equipment Distribution Review Board, which will meet again at the end of December, is tasked with determining what Army equipment can be dubbed excess without unduly affecting U.S war-fighting capabilities.
"The Army is working diligently to determine what is excess to its needs. We are carrying the burden of war, which makes it harder for us to come up with equipping solutions. The rate at which we are exhausting materiel is profound," said Webster.
There are a number of advantages to be gained by equipping friendly countries with U.S. gear, Webster said.
"Our desire is to have U.S. equipment purchased [by Iraq]' because of the commonality that can be achieved," Webster said.
This interest in having common equipment is particularly important among NATO allies and the emerging forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Webster said.
"The Iraqis are due to take possession of their first Abrams tanks in August of 2010," said Webster.
The Iraqis government is also buying Bell 407 helicopters, Hellfire missiles, .50 caliber machine guns and MRAPs, and they will soon be taking delivery of 8,500 refurbished HMMWVs.
U.S. Army FMS sales worldwide have soared in the last six years from roughly $5 billion annually to $23.9 billion in FY 2009. While there has been a boost in interest in missile defense technologies such as the PATRIOT system among allies in the Arabian Gulf region and in Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to account for about one-third of total Army FMS in 2009.
The U.S. is also increasing FMS sales to key coalition allies involved in the ongoing war effort.
"Chinooks right now are hot in the current fight," said Webster.
"We worked on an expedited and urgent government-to-government deal for Chinook D models to support Canadian forces in Afghanistan," he said.
Chinooks are also being sold to the Australia and Britian, Webster said.
"Countries have seen our equipment in combat for almost nine years.
People want to buy our stuff," said Tucker.