Government Processes Hinder Foreign Military Sales

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The convoluted application of rules is sending buyers elsewhere.

U.S. foreign military sales are less robust than they could be because existing rules are applied inconsistently, which in turn is compelling customers to buy less effective technologies from other nations. This trend has long-term negative implications for the U.S. defense industrial base, say industrial leaders.

Ellen Lord, president and chief executive officer, Textron Systems Corporation, outlined this challenge at the Thursday morning keynote panel at West 2014 in San Diego. She cited an example of how the sale of one type of technology to a foreign customer went smoothly, while the sale of the same technology to a similar foreign customer took far longer because of repeated reviews.

The services, caught in the middle, are forced to delay the process, which can delay deliveries to foreign customers from 24 to 36 months. She related how it is driving customers to other nations, even when they know they will be getting inferior technology. This in turn has implications for U.S. defense industry.

“Foreign sales are keeping the U.S. industrial base afloat,” she pointed out.

In addition, U.S. government officials rarely work to promote foreign military sales among other governments—which other countries do to the benefit of their own industrial bases. Lord called for U.S. government officials to sit down with other countries’ officials and work on behalf of U.S. industry to help arrange sales.

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