By Kim Gillespie, for Soldiers magazineNovember 1, 2011
The U.S. Army Security Assistance Command is known as the "Army's face to the world," maintaining relationships with more than 150 countries through its role in Foreign Military Sales. As part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, this 46-year-old "face" just got a "lift" in the form of a new headquarters building at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
"We've come a long way since our start in 1965 at New Cumberland, Pa.," Brig. Gen. Christopher Tucker, USASAC commanding general, said. "The command headquarters made its first move to Alexandria, Va., in 1975 and its second move to Fort Belvoir, Va., in 2001, but this is the first time in its history that the headquarters will be housed in a building specifically designed and built to accommodate its personnel."
USASAC was located at Fort Belvoir until September 2009, when it became the first flag-level command to move to Redstone Arsenal, a full two years ahead of the BRAC schedule.
The relocation to Redstone Arsenal keeps USASAC in close proximity to Headquarters, U.S. Army Materiel Command, its parent command, and Army Security Assistance Enterprise partners, such as the Program Executive Office/Program Manager community, that also have a presence or connection to Redstone.
At the June building dedication for AMC, Gen. Ann Dunwoody, AMC commanding general, referred to Redstone Arsenal as the "center of gravity for our command." AMC subordinate commands play an important role in the FMS process. The Security Assistance Enterprise includes the security assistance management directorates of each of the AMC life cycle management commands, which ensure the Army supports each FMS case.
"The technical specifications and costs for specific items, for instance a helicopter, that are requested by a country have to be developed by the SAMD, such as AMCOM (Aviation and Missile Command), and coordinated with the PEO, such as PEO Aviation. Another example would be a tank, which could be coordinated through TACOM's (TACOM Life Cycle Management Command's) SAMD," Tucker explained.
According to Tucker, while the relocation of USASAC to Redstone Arsenal offers many opportunities for increasing efficiencies within the security assistance enterprise, the physical location of the building is not a concern for the command's international partners. "As our chief information officer/G6 pointed out when we planned this building, physical location is no longer a barrier to quick and easy communication," Tucker said. "Because we have a global customer base, employees are used to communicating with their customers in a less traditional setting. This location is less important than state-of-the-art technology, and in that respect, the new building is the perfect location."
USASAC's new headquarters building includes nine medium to large video teleconferencing rooms and more than 15 small video teleconferencing rooms, which ensure all USASAC personnel have access to video teleconferencing communication capabilities. "Not only does this enhance the quality of our communications by allowing, literally, face-to-face communication, but it also decreases travel costs and saves time," Tucker said.
The need to save time and increase efficiencies can be largely attributed to the rise in FMS, with 380 civilian and 139 military personnel currently managing more than 4,600 cases and total program activity valued at $121 billion. According to Tucker, security assistance and FMS are experiencing growth not seen since World War II. "The last several years have seen FMS triple -- fiscal year 2009 peaked with $24.2 billion. That level has tapered off, but FMS for FY 2011 will still total around $12 billion," Tucker said.
When FMS peaked, much of the support was for the buildup of Iraqi and Afghanistan security forces, as well as Pakistan and coalition forces. But with U.S. troops located throughout the world and regional stability the focus of the combatant commands, building relationships through military partnerships that promote compatibility and interoperability in training, equipment and even soldier development are crucial to the national defense strategy.
According to Tucker, international partners seek FMS from the U.S. based not only on the quality of the equipment and service, but the life-cycle support and transparency of the process. "We offer a total package approach that provides equipment, spares and repair parts, a maintenance program, logistics capability and training. These things are integral to employing and maintaining these systems over time," he said.
Training ensures the requesting countries not only obtain equipment and resources, but also the skills, abilities and knowledge necessary to operate and maintain them. The result is a large return on investment for the U.S. Army -- foreign countries are able to aid and defend themselves, which means one less U.S. Soldier deployed.
The relocation of USASAC's headquarters to Redstone Arsenal wasn't the only change the command saw during the last year. In October 2010, a reflagging/patching ceremony was held which transferred the U. S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to AMC as a subordinate command to USASAC.
"The benefits of having a brigade-equivalent organization available to deploy teams anywhere in the world in support of our security assistance enterprise are two-fold: Our customers are getting training tailored to their specific needs, and the COCOMs are assured of getting the training support they need from regional partners through planning and coordination with SATMO," Tucker added.
SATMO remains located at Fort Bragg, N.C., with more than 260 Soldiers, civilians and contractors deployed to more than 20 countries through the year. USASAC retains its presence at New Cumberland with its logistics operations field office, and a Washington Field Office at Fort Belvoir includes foreign liaison personnel and the Office of the Program Manager for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. USASAC has liaison personnel located with each of the COCOMs and in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, and OPM-SANG maintains offices in Saudi Arabia.
"OPM-SANG has been a part of USASAC since 1979 and it truly represents the heart, soul and commitment of our employees and this organization. In 1995, we lost friends and co-workers in the bombing of OPM-SANG's headquarters in Riyadh," Tucker said.
USASAC's new building will incorporate an AMC Civilian Purple Heart Recipients plaque that was displayed in AMC's old Fort Belvoir headquarters. The plaque includes the names of more than 40 OPM-SANG employees injured in the 1995 bombing (civilians were eligible for the Purple Heart from 1962 to 1997).
"The new building is really about the future and says we are the 'Army's Face to the World.' It's the first impression that many of our international partners will have of the U.S. Army and it says we are a highly professional organization with cutting-edge technology," Tucker said. "We also know that security assistance will always be a part of our national defense strategy since it's as old as war itself. We really are where the past meets the future."
Kim Gillespie is the USASAC command information officer.