By Ms. Kim C Gillespie (USASAC)September 10, 2012
Kevin Richardson, deputy director for the CENTCOM Regional Operations Directorate, is a new employee of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, but he's not new to the Security Assistance Enterprise.
USASAC oversees the foreign military sales process for the Army, and it co-leads the Security Assistance Enterprise, which includes more than 10,000 people from various Department of Defense and Department of the Army organizations, agencies and even industry that provide support to foreign military sales cases.
Richardson came to USASAC in late May after working for the Program Executive Office for Aviation's Apache Project Office, where he was the deputy assistant program manager for International Apache Programs. USASAC is the common link for all Security Assistance Enterprise organizations because it oversees the FMS process from start to finish.
"In the PMO, the contract is between the USG (U.S. government) and the manufacturers," Richardson explained. "In USASAC, the 'contract' (Letter of Offer and Acceptance) is between the USG and the foreign customer."
Because USASAC oversees cases for 145 countries, it handles cases by country which fall under directorates that support the Geographic Combatant Commands. The COCOM's Theater Engagement Plans shape priorities for FMS cases in their regions. Organizations that work with materiel, or commodities, such as the PEOs and Army Materiel Command life cycle management commands' Security Assistance Management Directorates, provide support to USASAC FMS cases through their systems or platforms.
When Richardson worked for PMO Apache, "I worked only with the Apache helicopter and its associated systems," he said. However, ensuring that international partners got the capability they needed by managing contracts for military hardware also put him in contact with representatives for those countries. "I also had the opportunity to speak to customers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East about the management of their programs."
In addition to communicating with partner countries, Richardson also sees other connections that made his transition to USASAC seem natural.
"Both positions allow me to use my background and other resources at my disposal, to help ensure that the customer receives the equipment he actually needs; while at Apache by ensuring the aircraft were built to the same exacting standards as the USG, and at USASAC by working with him to shape the LOR (Letter of Request)/LOA to best suit his unique defense requirements," he said.
The position in USASAC's CENTCOM directorate also has a personal benefit.
"I am also quite interested in the history and culture of the Middle East, which makes my current position even more enjoyable," Richardson said. As the deputy director, his responsibilities are not only supervising a staff of more than 30 people (largely comprised of country program managers), but also ensuring that the capability a country requests is well-defined.
That includes developing a LOA that accurately reflects inputs not only from the country, but from other members of the Security Assistance Enterprise.
"During my time in the Apache office, I was fortunate enough to work with many of the USASAC CPMs. Those working relationships showed me the need for good communications between our offices to guarantee that the customer's requirements were translated into a workable contract, and that all of the needed services were provided to the customer's complete satisfaction," Richardson said.
The importance other members of the Security Assistance Enterprise play in the FMS process cannot be emphasized enough by Richardson.
"Both organizations (USASAC and PEO Aviation) work extensively with the AMCOM SAMD organization, and most of the communication between them passes through the SAMD as well," he said.
While Richardson must maintain a strong relationship with each of the countries in his region, he must also ensure that his staff has the skills they need to ensure countries receive the products and services they've been promised. Richardson is committed to providing training, "as well as the mentoring required to help them progress as security assistance professionals."
That being said, he is a huge supporter of the training initiative that USASAC commander Maj. Gen. Del Turner has championed as part of a larger "Portfolio of Initiatives" to increase understanding of what each of the enterprise members bring to the FMS process and to also give them the knowledge and tools to most efficiently and effectively perform their role. The training initiative includes a Developmental Assignment Program that is currently in the beta test stage.
The program is based on the concept of "cross-training" by having USASAC personnel (primarily at the more junior level) work at the PEOs and the AMC LCMC SAMDs for 30 to 60 days, and vice versa.
"Most CPMs do not realize that something as simple as a request for Pricing and Availability data has to go through SAMD, to one or more PM offices, then out to the prime contractor, who must in turn go to their subcontractors and vendors, all just to get a rough cost estimate," Richardson said. He sees similar advantages to employees outside of USASAC learning about how the command uses and develops security assistance policies, and works with security cooperation officers and the COCOMs to establish what is needed in their regions of the world, or just seeing the oversight and follow through these agreements.
"Spending a month in New Cumberland would allow them to see the day-to-day activities necessary to order and ship the hardware to the customer," he said.
Richardson currently has an employee participating in the beta test at the PM Patriot office."She will learn more about the system, which is important in developing the LOA," he said.
According to Richardson, learning more about various weapons systems and their sustainment can assist CPMs in developing a "Total Package" capability for a country. Rather than just providing the equipment itself, the capability is ensured through provisions for spare parts, training, publications, technical documentation, facilities, maintenance support and other services, which are important to successfully building partner capacity.
Richardson is proud to serve as "the Army's Face to the World," and cites the numerous benefits that FMS provides.
"Most people don't realize how FMS benefits our own Army when another country spends its money on our equipment. The most recent block of Apache would not have been possible without the FMS orders -- it's the economies of scale, and the more helicopters that are produced means it reduces the cost per unit for our Army," he said. "It also keeps the industrial base hot, and improves interoperability with our partners and allies."