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U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program Builds Momentum in Iraq

By Seaman William Selby, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2008 – The U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program continues to grow in Iraq, where the Defense Ministry is buying vehicles, equipment, and other goods and services for its military, a senior military official said today.

In a conference call with online journalists and “bloggers,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Keith Muschalek, security assistance program manager for Iraq’s Defense Ministry, said the Foreign Military Sales program in Iraq is large and is maturing quickly.

Muschalek attributed the program’s growth and success to its invulnerability to corruption. “All the procurement is done by the U.S government,” he explained. “They have no contracts, (and) they do not negotiate; the FMS does that for them, and so this precludes any corruption whatsoever.”

Security assurance officers ensure merchandise is transferred to the appropriate Iraqi official and is signed for on a receipt form, said Muschalek, noting that in a recent sale of tens of thousands of M-16 rifles, 100 percent of the rifles were accounted for.

“With FMS, there is no chance of corruption, and this is precisely why they have chosen to put all this money into the FMS program,” he added.

Muschalek said that the Foreign Military Sales procurement process time is extremely fast, which makes it highly attractive to the Iraqis.

“If I receive a signed letter of request, I can expect a letter of offer acceptance … in about 120 days,” Muschalek said.

Then, depending on the product and the urgency of the request, it can take from two weeks to eight months to get a signature accepting the offer from the Iraqi defense minister. Muschalek added that, on average, it takes about a year after the letter offer of acceptance is signed to receive the merchandise.

Muschalek acknowledged that while the program has had great success so far, some minor problems need to be addressed.

“FMS has had its challenges, and one of the biggest problems is (Iraqi officials) understanding the FMS system and program,” Muschalek said. “What makes it hard in Iraq is the translation. It is very important that the Iraqi officials and the Ministry of Defense understand the FMS program.”

To assist the Iraqis, the Security Assistance Office has brought in mobile training teams to train them on the program, Muschalek said. Once Iraqi officials understand FMS, he predicted, the process will move much faster.

Another problem is that some Iraqi officials are skeptical about the FMS program, Muschalek said. “There are some individuals that do not favor FMS,” he said. “There’s basically a pro-FMS tribe and there is a counter-tribe that doesn’t want FMS fully implemented,” he said.

But despite the bureaucratic hurdles, Muschalek said, the program has the Iraqi government’s support. “The Iraqi Ministry of Defense has fully embraced FMS,” he said. “The momentum has shifted, and it will soon, if (it’s) not already, become the largest FMS program in the world.”

(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)

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