From the moment he was sworn in, Secretary of Defense James Mattis makes a resounding pledge to work more closely with the State Department and strengthen U.S. alliances abroad.
One of his top three priorities -- partnership building -- falls squarely in the lane of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command.
USASAC leads the Army Materiel Command's security assistance enterprise, developing and managing foreign military sales cases and security assistance programs.
Its primary FMS mission is a fundamental tool of U.S. foreign policy and a form of security assistance authorized by the Arms Export Control Act of 1976. Under the AECA the U.S. may sell defense articles and services to foreign countries and organizations when the president formally finds that to do so will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.
With a total FMS portfolio of $181 billion, USASAC manages more than 5,700 cases for 153 countries.
Despite the impressive tally, USASAC CENTCOM Regional Operations Deputy Director Conrad Bonner said the numbers aren't as important as what those numbers mean. Measured in real-world impact, Bonner said those figures amount to readiness for U.S. forces, increased capability for partner nations and increased stability throughout the world.
"We have a lot of allies who are using FMS purchased equipment, so they are using the same materiel, they are training with us, talking the same lingo and becoming fully interoperable with us," he said. "This means when, and if, it's time to conduct coalitions operations against a common enemy, they are ready and able to fight alongside us on today's strategically complex battlefield."
Not only are partner nations able to better protect their borders and deter aggression in their corners of the world, they also help conduct counterterrorism, counter narcotics and various other operations throughout the globe.
Bonner, a retired Army officer, can relate to a recent comment by Mattis, that he too has never fought in an all-American formation, but always alongside coalition forces.
"Our commander, Maj. Gen. Stephen Farmen, consistently echoes the sentiment 'Nations with allies thrive, and those without decline,'" Bonner said. "I think that really sums up the importance of the U.S. security assistance mission."
Bonner said partner nations also realize that "we need one another to thrive, and that's why we work around the clock, delivering the right capability, to the right partner, at the right time."
USASAC has delivered the right capability to the tune of $9.16 billion in fiscal 2017 new business, yet another successful year for FMS.
Divided into geographic combatant commands that cover every continent in the world providing the sale of equipment, spare parts, maintenance, training and simulation, technical documentation and facilities, the COCOMs consist of the following:
-- CENTCOM, with $7.4 billion in new business and more than 2,000 active cases totaling $126 billion. There are 18 countries in CENTCOM. Over the last year, CENTCOM has been consistent with spikes due to high dollars sales, including aircraft, armor and air defense materiel. A major case for fiscal 2017 included Saudi Arabia's Patriot III for $1.65 billion and a refurbishment case for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles for the United Arab Emirates at $477 million. Other major cases include a contract logistic support package for Iraq for its M1A1Abrams tanks at a cost of $77 million and a $345 million case for the purchase of UH-60M Black Hawks by Saudi Arabia.
-- AFRICOM, with $301 million in new business, ramping up active cases to 740 for a total program value of $3.2 billion. There are 41 countries in AFRICOM, whose primary tools for implementing U.S. strategy are posture, presence, programs, exercises, engagements and operations. Its largest cases in fiscal 2017 include Kenya Harris radios for $48 million, Morocco TOW II Missiles for $42.9 million and Kenya Building Partner Capacity case for $14.9 million, providing Howitzers and vehicles.
-- EUCOM, with $1.2 billion in new business, bringing their total up to 1,534 active cases with a total program value of $18 billion. There are 42 countries in EUCOM. Top FMS cases included Netherlands' Apache for $77.3 million, Netherlands' Patriot for $65.5 million and Poland's COMSEC Radios for $65.4 million.
-- NORTHCOM, with 99 active cases worth $2.0 billion in the region's two countries (Mexico and Canada). Top cases for fiscal 2017 include helicopter spare parts and Night Vision Devices valued at $10 million and $2 million respectively.
-- PACOM, with $1.2 billion in new business, ramping up active cases to 954 for a total program value of $24.3 billion. There are 22 countries in PACOM, which develops and executes FMS cases for partner nations in Asia and the Pacific. Among the high-dollar cases were India's Howitzer program at $737 million and Korea's Apache Post Production Support/Services case for $268 million.
-- SOUTHCOM, with $16.8 million in new business and 299 active cases totaling $2.5 billion. There are 28 countries in SOUTHCOM. Top cases for the fiscal year included the Argentina Cargo Trucks and Trailer case, totaling $8.8 million; and Colombia's Helicopter spares case, totaling 4.6 million. As the United States continues to divest its major defense equipment, SOUTHCOM countries, particularly Brazil, are investing in excess defense articles.
Fiscal 2017 also brought with it changes in leadership. USASAC welcomed its third Command Sgt. Maj. Gene Canada and bid farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Mason during a change of responsibility ceremony at Redstone Arsenal, June 27. A USASAC subordinate organization, the Security Assistance Training Management Organization welcomed Col. Eric Flesch, who assumed command from Col. Gerald "Andy" Boston during a July 7 ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In its 52nd year, USASAC continues to serve the nation as "The Army's Face to the World," employing hundreds of employees at Redstone Arsenal.; New Cumberland, Pennsylvania; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and in various geographic locations throughout the globe in support of its worldwide mission.
USASAC will continue its vital mission of building partner capacity, supporting geographic combatant command strategies and strengthening global partnerships in support of U.S. national security.