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Defense Logistics Agency Strengthens Allies, International Security Through Foreign Military Sales

A program that transfers America's defense equipment to international partners gives the U.S. and its allies an upper hand on the battlefield.

"We want to be interoperable with our NATO partners, and the Foreign Military Sales program allows us to work succinctly and without delay in a time of crisis," said Andre Hinson, FMS account manager for the Defense Logistics Agency and liaison to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Several uniformed service members perform maintenance on a military aircraft.
On the Move
Crew chiefs assigned to the 114th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron remove a ventral fin from an F-16 Sept. 7, 2023, at Joe Foss Field, S.D. F-16s are among the major systems that the Defense Logistics Agency is suppling parts for through the Foreign Military Sales program.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Duane Duimstra
VIRIN: 230907-Z-SJ722-1004G

FMS is authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act and Arms Export Control Act. The U.S. Department of State oversees the program while DSCA administers it on behalf of the Defense Department. Most individual cases are implemented by the Army, Navy and Air Force as they transfer service-managed platforms like F-16 fighter aircraft and M777 howitzers to global FMS customers. DSCA and the services then lean on DLA to meet international needs for repair parts that keep FMS equipment running.

South Korea and Canada are among the allied partners that DLA supports through FMS, but current crises in Ukraine and Israel also drive some of the agency's current FMS work.

"A large amount of our support is toward sustainment and material readiness for both ground and aviation equipment in those regions," said Hinson. 

Though repair parts make up the bulk of DLA's participation in FMS cases managed at service levels, two DLA entities manage cases of their own: DLA Disposition Services and the Defense Logistics Information Service. DLA Disposition Services provides excess material to eligible countries on an as-is, where-is basis. Typical examples include medical equipment, office equipment, basic field equipment, clothing and spare parts. Excess tactical vehicles may also be transferred if available. 

DLIS provides foreign customers with coding and cataloging data for DLA-managed items, as well. The information shared ranges from national stock numbers and maximum-release quantities to item description and weight. DLIS can also provide tailored information depending on nations' unique needs.

Several civilians and uniformed military members sit at a table while smiling.
Group Photo
Members of Defense Logistics Agency Acquisition and Foreign Military Sales program pose for a photo Sept. 19, 2023, with leaders at a freight forwarding facility in New Jersey that handles DLA-supplied FMS parts heading to Israel.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 231013-D-HE260-0001F

"DLIS has assisted countries that are looking for alternate items when the current NSN they have is no longer available, for example," said Ray Woods, also a DLA FMS account manager and DSCA liaison. "They can even help get cataloging data translated and provide maintenance instructions. That type of support has been significant for Ukraine."  

Requesting Support

For an FMS case to begin, a letter of request must be sent from the eligible foreign nation's embassy to the U.S. Embassy. Each case is unique and may require discussions to develop requirements and an actionable agreement. The State Department helps determine what the requester may or may not have. From there, requests are filtered down to a case manager through DSCA, and the case manager works with the nation to build a letter of acceptance outlining the transaction, to include how much of an item the customer needs, when they want it and other terms. 

All requests include the amount the buyer will spend and indicate whether the partner knows what they'll buy. A request that outlines which items will be purchased is known as a Cooperative Logistics Supply Support Agreement, which helps DLA project future demand and invest in additional stock. 

"With CLSSA, they're telling us, 'I'm going to buy these things and I'm going to give you 30% upfront to use toward my future purchases,'" Woods said. 

Requests that don't identify the specific items needed are non-CLSSA, or blanket-order cases for designated timeframes. Customers are aware such orders can take longer to fulfill, Woods said, adding that the agency tracks material availability to measure how well it meets needs. The goal for CLSSA items is 85% although it's currently at 89% for the four major weapons systems DLA supports in Israel. 

"Currently, non-CLSSA has a material availability of 65.8%, which is very good for items we do not demand plan for," he continued. 

Hinson pointed out that DLA can sometimes overcome availability obstacles, especially for urgent needs.

A group of people pose for a photo in a large warehouse.
Group Photo
Logistics planners from South Korea discuss Foreign Military Sales support with representatives from the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Oct. 19, 2023, at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Photo By: Chris Lynch, DOD
VIRIN: 230919-D-D0441-0001Y

"When there's been an aircraft on the ground that a particular nation needed for mission support, for example, we were able to move material out much quicker than normal, even within 30 days." 

In cases where foreign partners use equipment U.S. forces no longer use, FMS requests include an agreement that DLA will continue to support sustainment needs despite low demands. 

"If parts are no longer in our inventory, DLA item managers will work with industry to procure them, but the customer understands the lead time for those items can be potentially long and they're willing to wait if it's not a readiness priority," said Woods. 

Orders for FMS items enter DLA through the same automated systems used by U.S. military customers but include a unique code that identifies the buyer as an FMS customer. Woods added that DLA charges FMS customers the same it does other organizations, but the customer relies on a third-party logistics provider to pick up material from DLA locations and ship it internationally. 

Foreign partners are also required to use items as specified in the agreement and must dispose of material on their own.

A man, standing in the bay of an airplane signals for another truck to deliver a wooden box.
Direction Duty
Senior Airman James Graves, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, marshals cargo onto a C-130J Super Hercules during a Foreign Military Sales mission between the U.S. and Switzerland at Dover Air Force Base, Del., May 14, 2023. The Defense Logistics Agency provides repair parts for U.S. military equipment that’s transferred to FMS customers by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and U.S. military services.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Cydney Lee
VIRIN: 230514-F-IF976-1091O

"We constantly remind countries that once items have been received, they can't return them to us," said Hinson. However, DSCA's Worldwide Warehouse Redistribution Service allows FMS customers to resell excess spare parts to other allied partners. 

"So if one nation purchases five widgets but only needs two, it can make the other three available through WWRS," he continued.  

Monthly and quarterly meetings with international customers help make DLA's support successful, Woods added. Discussions focus on whether the agency is doing enough to meet sustainment requirements and possible supply discrepancies. 

"The countries have invested in their supply chains by sending what we consider security liaisons or senior logisticians here to the United States on two-year rotations, so those are the representatives that we're in touch with on a continual basis," said Hinson. "They also have points of contact at our major subordinate commands to resolve issues as they surface." 

The benefits of DLA's participation in FMS surpass interoperability. Larger orders for similar items help the agency achieve better prices for all customers while also supporting U.S. foreign policy, said Woods.

A uniformed service member and a man work on a piece of military equipment.
Training Time
A U.S. soldier assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division works with a Ukrainian soldier during M-109 Self-Propelled Howitzer maintenance training at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 25, 2022. Major weapons systems are transferred to allied partners through the Foreign Military Sales program and the Defense Logistics Agency supplies repair parts to help customers sustain equipment throughout the lifecycle.
Photo By: Army Spc. Nicko K. Bryant Jr.
VIRIN: 220525-A-DW071-1004I

"We're not the only nation with a robust supply chain. If we don't stay in close ties and collaboration with our NATO countries, they have the option to go elsewhere to procure sustainment for their equipment," said Hinson, pointing to adversaries such as China. "But any time we share parts for weapons systems that are similar or the same as those used by our allies, we're more effective as a team."

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