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House Report Calls for Faster Foreign Military Sales Reviews

A task force created by the House Foreign Affairs Committee has released a report proposing a series of changes to speed up the delay-prone Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.

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Some of the task force’s recommendations, such as increasing the dollar thresholds for congressional notification and creating a mechanism to ensure senior officials prioritize arms sales to Taiwan, are included in a bill that the committee approved Feb. 6 (see 2402070048). Others, such as placing greater emphasis on “exportability” when designing weapons systems, and incentivizing the sale of defense technology developed by startups, could be addressed in future legislation.

The 22-page report, unveiled Feb. 7, says the FMS process remains stuck in the mindset of the Cold War, when the main security challenge was preventing technology transfers to the Soviet Union, and does not reflect today's push to share U.S. defense capabilities with allies and partners. It says the need for reform is highlighted by Taiwan, which has had trouble getting timely delivery of equipment despite facing a growing threat from China.

“For Taiwan alone, 19 outstanding weapons purchases totaling $22 billion dollars have been approved by Congress but await delivery in 2027 or later,” the report says. “Some cases do not even have anticipated delivery dates assigned.”

On exportability, the task force said that the military services often remove that feature from their weapon system programs due to budget constraints. The report contends that senior policy officials should have responsibility for preserving a system’s exportability and that they should be able to access the State Department’s “underused” Special Defense Acquisition Fund to do so.

The task force also calls for the military services to evaluate contracting officers on their FMS performance to incentivize action and create common FMS contracting processes. To improve interagency communications on FMS, the report proposes creating an online database to track cases and making it accessible to all stakeholders, including State Department field personnel and the defense industry.

The task force drew criticism from one of its members, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., who wrote in a “dissenting view” that the task force should have sought input from a wider range of stakeholders, such as arms control experts and human rights advocates. “Reform of the FMS process must remain fully rooted in the context of international nonproliferation efforts and the application of export controls to protect human rights,” he said.

The State Department, which leads the FMS process, and the Defense Department didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.