2016 and Beyond: Linking Diplomacy and Defense to Strengthen U.S. Security Partnerships

In a year where Iraq and our coalition partners made gains against ISIL; nations across Southeast Asia moved to safeguard their territorial waters; the nations of Africa confronted threats from groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabab; and Ukraine fought to defend its territory from Russian aggression, looking back affords us a view of the road ahead. Complex challenges require new approaches to working together with U.S. allies and partners worldwide to promote international peace and security. 

To respond to these challenges the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs links diplomacy and defense to bolster U.S. national security. Working closely with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Congress, and the U.S. defense industry we are delivering tools and training that strengthen our allies and partners abilities to adapt and respond to these challenges around the world. 

Special operations forces from Jordan and the United States conduct an exercise as part of Eager Lion multinational military maneuvers. [AP Photo]

Security Assistance Builds Partnerships

One way the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs does this is by overseeing approximately $6 billion in Security Assistance programs. This assistance supports grants under Foreign Military Financing to help our partners invest in U.S. training and equipment; International Military Education and Training that enables foreign military personnel to study beside their U.S. military counterparts; and Peacekeeping Operations funds to help train and equip foreign forces to step up to the challenge of helping countries emerge and recover from war.

We also work closely with DoD as they implement several security cooperation programs under their oversight, such as Iraq Train and Equip, the Maritime Security Initiative and the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund. Looking ahead, we will continue to work with our interagency and foreign government partners, using this important tool of U.S. diplomacy to further strengthen our national security in a way that’s responsive, stabilizing, and long lasting. 

U.S. soldiers and Ukrainian Guardsmen participate in an after-action review following a live fire exercise funded through the Global Security Contingency Fund. [DVIDS photo]

Improving Foreign Military Sales

The Foreign Military Sales system is another essential U.S. foreign policy tool that allows us to transfer defense equipment to our partners worldwide. In 2016 the State Department’s PM Bureau approved $34 billion in foreign military sales that help our partners to meet their own defense needs and allow them to work more effectively with the U.S. military.

This year the Department of State and DoD, in close consultation with Congress, U.S. industry and foreign governments, have made progress on improving the foreign military sales process. There is no “one size fits all” approach to foreign military sales: each request is carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Before approving a proposed defense transfer, experts across the U.S. Government must carefully weigh a wide range of factors, from regional security and human rights to securing sensitive technologies. All major U.S. defense transfers require congressional notification, which may involve significant discussions. This process, which may sometimes appear slow to some critics, is essential to ensuring that these transfers of often-sophisticated, top-of-the line U.S. manufactured military equipment are consistent with U.S. foreign policy.

A new F-16 delivered to the Iraqi Air Force under Foreign Military Sales. [State Department photo]

We developed new and better ways to formulate and develop foreign military sales requests from our foreign partners. We have improved training for State Department and DoD personnel who review and approve foreign military sales requests. We have also established new approaches to foreign military sales such as the Lead Nation Procurement Initiative, a pilot program that allows our NATO allies to retransfer equipment purchased through foreign military sales to other NATO members, offering greater flexibility and cost savings while maintaining accountability. Together, these interagency initiatives will enable the United States to remain the provider of choice for our foreign partners.

Protecting Defense Technologies Through Export Control Reform

In addition to administering foreign military sales, the Department of State also approves direct commercial sales of defense equipment and services from U.S. companies to our international partners. Since 2009 the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, and Defense as well as other U.S. Government agencies have worked together to improve this process through Export Control Reform: a project to update 1970s-era rules governing United States’ deliveries of defense equipment and services for the 21st Century. 

Under Export Control Reform, an interagency team of experts conducted comprehensive technical and policy reviews of the U.S. Munitions List of defense equipment, technologies, and services that accounted for approximately $45 billion of U.S. exports in 2016. Based on this review, thousands of less technically sensitive equipment, parts, and components were moved to Department of Commerce’s Commerce Control List. These reforms were developed in close consultation with Congress and U.S. industry, which provided extensive public review and comment on the proposed changes.

A worker checks the door latch of a Humvee in a factory in Ohio. [AP Photo]

Here’s why Export Control Reform is important: our allies and partners who use U.S.-made defense equipment rely on thousands of spare parts every day. Under the Department of Commerce’s rules, U.S. partners and allies can get these parts faster, allowing them to operate more effectively beside U.S. forces around the world. Meanwhile, the Department of State can better concentrate its efforts on protecting those cutting-edge defense technologies that give us and our partners a key advantage. U.S. industry has been highly supportive of Export Control Reform, and we hope to continue with this effort to modernize Cold War-era regulations to account for and better secure new and emerging technologies.

A Continued Commitment to Expanding Partnerships for our Shared Security

Through Security Assistance, Foreign Military Sales, and Export Control Reform the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is forging new and innovative partnerships at home and abroad that advance U.S. national security objectives. While we cannot see what lies ahead in 2017, you can count on our continued commitment to expanding these partnerships to meet new and emerging security challenges.

About the Author: David McKeeby serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information: 

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard joined Lebanese officials to inspect a delivery of approximately $50 million worth of U.S. made military equipment. [State Department photo]
Posted by David McKeeby
December 28, 2016

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