Forging International Partnerships through Foreign Military Sales

BY LT. BLAKE FOUNTAIN, Public Affairs, Navy Supply Corps School

In “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0,” Admiral Richardson details four lines of effort (LOE) defining the Navy’s priority efforts, with LOE purple stated as “Expanding and Strengthening Our Network of Partners.” At the Navy Supply Corps School (NSCS), our International and Executive Education office exists to achieve this. The International Officer Supply Course (IOSCO) joins officers from partner nations to learn the culture of the United States and share best logistics practices in a complex global environment.  The robust curriculum includes a three-week travel itinerary to culturally significant sites throughout the eastern United States, as well as numerous guest speakers meant to develop professional competence and build personal connections among international allies.

In June, at the invitation of Ms. Donna May, NSCS’ International Department training specialist, students had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Stephen Keith, principal assistant program manager for PMS 326, Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) International Fleet Support Program Office. A former Surface Warfare officer, serving aboard a destroyer and carrier during his active duty assignments, Keith separated from the Navy in 1998 and began working in foreign military sales (FMS), moving to his current position in 2014.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, “FMS is a security assistance program authorized by the Arms Export Control Act,” utilized by the United States to “further U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives through sales of defense articles, defense services, and military training to foreign countries and international organizations.” 1 Through PMS 326 and the Excess Defense Article program, Keith supports FMS transfers and training in numerous countries, including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. These efforts contributed to total FMS program sales of $55.66 billion executed for fiscal year 2018. 2 When materiel transfer is complete, the interaction doesn’t end; PMS 326 focuses on follow-on technical support to coordinate maintenance and modernization efforts, and transfer technical expertise to prolong materiel lifespan. During his visit to NSCS, Keith encountered two students, one from Taiwan and one from Poland, he had previously supported through the FMS program. This opportunity further developed the trust necessary to sustain international partnerships and laid the foundation for new relationships and potential FMS cases moving forward. Continued communication and collaboration builds the personal connections required to promote peace in a challenging security environment.

Junior officers on an operational tour may find procuring materiel consuming their time and disposing of obsolete equipment and repair parts might never cross their mind. Supply officers play a key role in developing and supporting our international partnerships, ensuring proper stewardship throughout the life cycle of the materiel and finances entrusted to us.

The other crucial component is personal connections founded on mutual respect.  One aspect to remember, as our allies grow stronger, we grow stronger. Keith’s parting words for IOSCO students should resonate with each of us “Ask what’s possible; don’t be afraid to ask for help, and break down barriers for the first time.

References:

  1. https://dsca.mil/news-media/news-archive/fiscal-year-2018-sales-total-5566-billion
  2. Ibid.