The U.S. Army's Security Assistance Command is conducting a surge of its own trying to get equipment to Iraqi and Afghani soldiers, according to Richard Alpaugh, deputy to the commander at USASAC at Fort Belvoir, Va. Alpaugh told conference attendees at ComDef West 2007 in San Diego yesterday that his office expects $12 billion to $15 billion in foreign military sales each year for the next several years as a result of supplemental spending bills. That's up from $3 billion to $4 billion a year during peacetime.
But these aren't your typical foreign military sales, which are intended to help equip U.S. allies at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. Alpaugh called them "pseudo" FMS because all of the usual rules of FMS, such as congressional notification of major sales, don't always apply. The new rules are designed to get Iraq's army and police up and running because U.S. officials believe stable Iraqi security forces are essential to the long-term goal of ending the United States' seemingly unending commitment there. Alpaugh says his office is straining to meet the demands of all the new business -- sometimes filling requests for equipment in as little as 30 days -- while still continuing with its regular foreign military sales and relationships with 120 armies around the world.
Taiwan, for example, hasn't seen a reduction in the threat from China just because the United States is at war. Taiwan still wants gear. Another problem has been finding the equipment needed without interrupting production lines intended for U.S. forces, and handling cultural differences in force structure. For example, Iraqis are used to AK-47s, but not M-16s, so USASAC ordered AK-47s from China, which Alpaugh notes took nine months to move through China's export licensing process. USASAC has also equipped Iraqis and Afghanis with Ford trucks built in Thailand and vehicles from South Africa. Other items provided to multi-national forces have included spare parts, anthrax vaccine, ammunition, communications gear, clothing and troop gear, repair services and unmanned aerial vehicles. Last December, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees all foreign military sales, informed Congress of $463 million worth of equipment being sold to Iraq, including Humvees, trailers, trucks and related equipment.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth