Opportunities and Challenges in Security Cooperation

Gregory M. Kausner
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Defense Security Cooperation Agency and 2013 Defense Security Cooperation Workshop, Hyatt Crystal City
Arlington, VA
April 24, 2013


Thank you all very much. It is my great pleasure to be here. As you know, these workshops can be incredibly valuable, as they help us to stay connected and gain the perspectives of others in the security cooperation field.

This workshop is an especially valuable experience for me, as it is my first public appearance as a representative of the State Department. As Vice Admiral Landay just mentioned, I was, until recently, serving on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Before my time on the Hill, I was an officer in the Navy.

So, I have viewed the issues we’ll be discussing over the course of this week through the lens of an operator, a Congressional staffer, and now, an Administration official.

What’s readily apparent to me, irrespective of what role I have filled, is how vital all the players –DoD, Congress, and the State Department – are to the effective administration and execution of security cooperation. This all-hands approach is what’s required, not only because of the volume of and demand for security cooperation programs, but because of the unique perspective and expertise that our interagency model brings to bear.

Today, as a representative of the Bureau that works every day to bring State and DoD together, I want to discuss the State Department’s role in Security Assistance in general, and arms sales in specific. I’ll talk about the opportunities that exist and the challenges that stand before us. And I’ll also briefly touch on how we at the State Department are working to overcome such obstacles to advance our U.S. interests.


During this period in time – when we face a multipolar and complex world – it is worth reexamining the purpose of security assistance. We must not be afraid to challenge conventional norms and widely accepted assumptions, so that we may take hold of the tremendous opportunities that changing regional dynamics present.

The first thing we need to realize is that Arms Sales are not always the culmination of a foreign policy decision - they are instead, often the start of a relationship; a new opportunity for engagement and influence; and an entrée into comprehensive strategic dialogues.

At State, we’re working to expand our security partnerships with countries around the world because it is critical to U.S. national security. And that’s a point that I want to emphasize: The purpose of our military grant assistance and defense sales is primarily to promote U.S. national security interests.

This is a purpose laid out in the Arms Export Control Act, and it is why the State Department oversees U.S. security assistance: security assistance is after all an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. There is no doubt, however, that those of us in the State Department could not do it alone. We rely heavily on the tremendous expertise and experience of our close partners in DoD.

We also engage in arms sales to promote world peace. Again, the AECA is explicit on this point. To many outside the defense community, this may sound like a non-sequitur. And yet, we find again and again that deterrence is an effective promoter of peace.

The links that we forge with partner nations – and the bonds they form with each other, through mutual awareness and join exercises – provide a means to de-escalate tensions and improve relations. The nature of our relationships with allies and partners in the modern world is symbiotic when it comes to defense. We are safer when partners can ensure the stability of their regions – and they are safer employing American technology.

In this sense, arms sales and the partnerships built around them are also a force-multiplier. The key here is interoperability: Security assistance allows the United States to leverage the capabilities of our partners and allies to conduct joint operations.

I cannot over-emphasize how vital common platforms are in an operational environment. Those of us who have deployed along-side other nations know this well. When we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in a combat situation, it makes us more effective when we’re employing the same tactics, techniques, and procedures – but that’s difficult to do unless we share the same equipment.

We also garner tangible returns for our security assistance. Our arms sales and grant aid is often reimbursed with far-reaching access to everything from basing rights to preferred passage through essential transit routes. Thus, our military is able to maintain its role as a global provider of peace and security.

Yet another reason to offer arms sales to responsible nations is influence. When the United States offers an arms sale, we don’t just offer the end item. We provide the user manual, a chain of spare parts, maintenance support, and training. This “total package” approach gives us a tremendous amount of leverage going forward and establishes crucial relationships, which are often the foundation of diplomacy in tumultuous times.

As Secretary Kerry discussed the situation in Egypt last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he pointed out that, “largely through the ethic that had been created working and training at Fort Benning in America and various places, there were officer-to-officer relationships. We had majors who could talk to each other, we had colonels who could call on the phone and say you guys got to be restrained here…”

Of course, as you’re well aware, there’s another reason why arms sales are critical in this time of budget austerity. There is an economic impact on our defense industrial base.

I know many of you are concerned about the impact of sequestration. Believe me, so are we.

It is clear that the past ten years’ growth in defense budgets will not be replicated in this current decade.

This makes it all the more essential that we encourage others to shoulder more of the costs and responsibilities of global security, and that we provide them the right kind of tools to do so. When the United States enhances the military capabilities of our allies and partners, we strengthen their ability to handle their own security. This potentially reduces the burden that falls on our shoulders.

All of the reasons I just mentioned – national security, regional stability, interoperability, access, influence, economic benefits - these are just a sampling of the opportunities that exist thanks to security cooperation.

It is not pre-ordained, however, that such opportunities will always be available to us. Right now there is no partner more in demand than the United States. As much as it is in our interest to partner with nations around the world, it is also in the interest of foreign nations to partner with us.

But for it to stay that way we’ll have to be realistic about the challenges we face.


On the policy side, one of the primary challenges is in finding the balance between security interests and the promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Partner nations may not always use their capabilities with the same discretion that we do; they may not always place the same premium on human rights as does the United States. We work with them constantly – in every high level meeting, at every opportunity – to address these issues.

Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts, we must be aware that the weapons we sell for their legitimate defense purposes could also be used for reasons for which we do not approve, or that such a sale or grant may be interpreted as the United States providing political support to a government that is mistreating its citizens.

Of course, there are many steps we can take to prevent this from happening – from Leahy vetting to End Use Monitoring. These safeguards seek to protect both human rights considerations as well as technology security. In extremis, we may even place a hold on the sale of defense articles to specific elements of a nation’s security forces. Never-the-less, sometimes finding the balance between immediate security needs and human rights will remain a challenge.

A second challenge is ensuring that we are building not just capability, but capacity.

One of the lessons we learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is that a strategy predicated on ‘train and equip’ is destined to require continued American engagement long after the first troop is trained and the last of the equipment is delivered.

Rather, what we should be aiming for is sustainability, built on the capacity of our partners to maintain and develop the capabilities we have helped them obtain. This is particularly the case in the area of defense missions that are mutually beneficial.

In Foreign Military Sales we often talk of a ‘total package approach’ – but the package needs to be greater than a weapons system; it needs to involve, according to the situation, everything from institutional reform to legal reform to professional education.

Unless it is holistic and broad, security assistance designed just to provide a capability can instead provide a dependency – a dependency of the wrong kind.

We must be cognizant of the sum of our security engagement with a country to include arms sales, grant assistance, and DoD security cooperation programs to ensure that we have a truly unified approach that supports broad national security and foreign policy objectives.

Beyond a Total Package Approach, what we need is a Total Sector Approach – in fact, a Total Country Approach. This is a key part of what the State Department brings to each and every arms sale – it’s not just the Total Package for us, it’s about the total picture.

The third challenge is deciding which weapons systems to sell in order to ensure that sales do not destabilize regional security balances or lead to arms races. It is not enough to assess the needs of single partner. Again, we return to that word – holistic. We need to look across a given region to determine if the capability we are selling is a new introduction, or if it will upset the often-delicate balance of power between competing nations.

The fourth challenge for the U.S. is the protection of our most sensitive technologies and our military-technological edge. Years ago, there were two monoliths of defense production – the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Today, however, we face a world in which non-state actors actively seek to acquire destabilizing weapons, emerging states strive to improve their domestic production capabilities, and illicit front-companies seek to support such activities.

Ensuring that we can give our partners what they need, while preventing access to sensitive technologies, is an enduring and expanding challenge.

This is not only a reflection of today’s security environment – it is also a reflection of today’s information environment.

Scientific research can spread as quickly as any other kind of information; some of the world’s toughest problems are ‘crowd-sourced’ to the internet community; it is harder than ever for secrets to be kept, but it is a task we must live up to, even as we seek to burden-share with partners.

In all of these examples, we see one final challenge that is pervasive: how we balance the burden of global leadership and our role as the world’s primary provider of security with the fiscal constraints of today’s environment.

In overcoming this obstacle, we will look to innovative security cooperation programs to help our allies share the burden.

In the end though, our partners must take on an increased responsibility for their own security and that of their regions, whether through participating actively in alliances, such as we have seen in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia, or through sharing the actual financial cost of American presence around the globe.

The Way Forward

How do we address these challenges going forward? Undoubtedly, as I said in my opening, our approach will need to be a total government effort with State Department in the lead.

In the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the country has a tremendous asset: a group of exceedingly talented and dedicated individuals who spend every hour of every work day – and many of their days off as well – considering how to balance the challenges of security assistance with the opportunities. They literally do this on a case-by-case basis with the help of the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy (CAT Policy).

This document is the key guide to decision making on arms sales. The criteria laid down by the CAT Policy include, but are not limited to, consistency with U.S. regional stability interests; the impact of a proposed transfer on U.S. technological advantage; the degree to which the transfer supports U.S. strategic and foreign policy interests through increased access and influence; allied burden sharing, and interoperability; the human rights, terrorism and proliferation record of the recipient; the potential for misuse of the export in question; and finally the impact on U.S. industry and the defense industrial base.

As effective as the CAT is, the policy was written after the Cold War and was approved in 1995. So, it is due for an update. With the help of the interagency, we’ve been reviewing it with an eye towards producing a policy, which is more reflective of the current environment and the way we do business in the 21st century.

Beyond policy lies implementation. On this note, the continued partnership between the State Department and DoD is a key element to our success, in arms sales and across the field of security assistance. I would argue that the State-DoD relationship is the best it has been in a generation, if not longer.

We learned valuable lessons from an unprecedented transition from a military footprint to a civilian-led mission in Iraq, and we are now engaged in a similar level of cooperation in Afghanistan, where State Department civilians work side-by-side on a daily basis with their military counterparts. We have almost doubled the number of professionals exchanged between State and DoD, whether coming from State to DoD via the Policy Advisor’s (POLAD) program, or from DoD to State in the form of detailees into the Department, of which there are now the most on record. I think we’d all agree that interoperability isn’t just about the way we interact with foreign partners; it’s about fine-tuning how we interact with each other.

Another example of this partnership is the Global Security Contingency Fund or GSCF. With the creation of the GSCF, we recognized that security challenges do not confine themselves to departmental jurisdictions, and that we must be agile enough to provide support to partner nations across bureaucratic boundaries. The GSCF allows the Departments of Defense and State to pool funds in an 80/20 ratio. It requires us to not only implement together, but to plan together - from day one. This could be a model for our security assistance going forward – recognizing we need a holistic approach to problems, and addressing them comprehensively.

I would add, however, that even though State-DoD cooperation is closer than ever – and nowhere is it closer than on arms sales – there is still the opportunity for improvement. Now it is time to step to the next level and work together to communicate and bring each other into initiatives earlier. That way we make sure that plans are developed jointly between us, once again, from day one. Such efforts will help us achieve our shared objectives by allowing us to identify potential challenges earlier so that we may work together as team to overcome them.

This leads me to a second aspect of our way forward, the process itself.

It has been asserted by some that our arms sales process is broken. Well, after a year in which 86,000 licenses for Direct Commercial Sales were reviewed, and in which Foreign Military Sales hit an all time dollar record, I would suggest that it’s healthier than ever.

That’s not to say there aren’t complications. We have heard the calls from our foreign partners for more technology release, co-production opportunities, and advanced equipment to come, cheaper and faster. From our perspective, we’ll continue to look for efficiencies in the arms sales process. However, these are complex systems and complex situations: we can hurry, and we will - but we must not rush.

We must also be wiser. An excellent example of this right now is my Bureau’s work on the implementation of the President’s Export Control Reform Initiative.

America’s modern export control system was established in the 1960s, and had not undergone significant revision since the early 1990s, even as technology became more diffused around the world. The system was cumbersome and complex – not only for those in industry seeking to export items, but even for enforcement and licensing officials.

For the State Department, one of the most significant areas of focus has been the revision of the State-managed U.S. Munitions List (USML), to migrate items to the Department of Commerce’s Commerce Control List (CCL). These revisions are necessary to allow us to shield the technologies and capabilities that truly do give us an edge, protecting national security more effectively while enabling a more reliable and predictable system for U.S. industry and exporters.

On April 16, State and Commerce published the first two – and the largest by dollar value – of the newly revised categories of the USML and CCL – aircraft and engines – and we will be continuing to work across the interagency and with Congress to publish the remaining categories in either proposed or final form by the end of this year.


In closing, I would acknowledge that there is much unfinished business in the area of security cooperation. At the State Department, we will continue to work hard to hone our policies to fit a rapidly changing international environment and our processes to achieve maximum efficiency.

We are acutely aware that at a time when the U.S. government is looking for cost-effective ways to achieve its strategic objectives at home and abroad, security cooperation with our allies and partners will continue to be a fundamental tenet of national security.

So let me conclude by thanking you all for the valuable work that you do in this field. I look forward to working with you and collaborating to advance our national security in an increasingly complex atmoshpere. Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.