By Ms. Michelle Harlan (USASAC)June 22, 2012
NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. -- Perhaps one of the most critical pieces in the Foreign Military Sales puzzle is the delivery of materiel acquisitions to a foreign country recipient. There are many factors in place that can delay, or in worse case scenarios, stop the process. That's where the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command comes in -- all logistics operations are handled through USASAC's New Cumberland case management divisions for each combatant command.
David Cooper, a central case manager at USASAC's New Cumberland office, oversees the execution of FMS cases for approximately 40 countries throughout Central and South America. His job is to perform the overall case management functions for new and existing FMS cases from implementation to case closure and ensure the cases are delivered on time and within cost.
Working on case budgets and transportation can vary from country to country. According to Cooper, the process of case implementation and closure is often the same, but each country has its own quirks through the progression of their FMS cases.
"When I come in at the start of the day, I probably won't have the same issues as the day before," Cooper said. "It's a challenge, but a welcomed one. Nothing is repetitive here."
Cooper says his initiative to fulfill the customers' needs is what drives him to succeed in his job, as well as keeping the case balanced financially and logistically.
"Each customer is important," he said. "They receive equal support, no matter how big or small their program is."
Throughout the early stages of FMS case development, Cooper keeps a close watch as the case progresses and ensures that shipping addresses are constructed correctly to meet the country's request based on the structure of their transportation system. Country program managers at USASAC's Redstone Arsenal office work with the countries to establish the terms of a FMS case. Once that has been agreed upon between the U.S. and the recipient country, Cooper will work with various Army Materiel Command life-cycle management commands for procurement of materiel and vendors to ensure items can be ordered from their available stocks and also be able to ship on time.
Sometimes items aren't obtainable, whether they are out of production or out of stock, so USASAC will work to find equivalent substitutes or go through the USASAC Special Projects Office or possibly the SNAP (Simplified Nonstandard Item Acquisition Program) office to procure needed materiel.
Coordinating the challenges of delivering items is an obstacle Cooper has overcome. Cynthia Morgan, chief of the SOUTHCOM branch at USASAC New Cumberland, said Cooper works with the SOUTHCOM transportation office to resolve transportation issues. Some of the South American countries don't have channel flights available or can't afford freight forwarders.
"I try to work with them (foreign dignitaries) and also coordinate with the COCOMS and LCMCs," Cooper said.
That might mean piggybacking on training missions that are arriving in the same area as where the items are to be delivered, finding spare space on vessels or consolidating shipments to avoid extra costs.
"People don't quite understand the execution portion. The process to deliver materiel can take longer than we envision," he said. "Dealing with various countries in the Central/South American AOR (Area of Responsibility), I like to be directly involved with each and every requirement so that we know exactly what's going on and are able to provide shipping documentation as a heads-up that their items are shipping."
Cooper's co-workers agree that his work ethic is customer-centric.
"He strives to establish a good working relationship with the customer," Lenard Dotson, a CPM for USASAC's SOUTHCOM regional directorate, said.
"David is proactive; he meets problematic issues head on until he resolves the issue," Morgan said. "He is customer focused."
"I set myself to a high standard, as well as my team members," Cooper said. "There's always room for improvement. I want us to be satisfied with our efforts, but still wanting to achieve more for the betterment of the program."
When he receives an email from the customer saying they received their materiel, Cooper knows his team has done an integral part of their job.
"We (USASAC) have the same goal -- providing the customer what they need," he said. "In the end, we must ensure that they are satisfied with our efforts to support them from a security assistance perspective. This mindset will be sure to build partnerships across the nation."