Industry Issues

Conventional Arms Transfer Policy

The Trump Administration’s announcement of a review of its Conventional Arms Transfer Policy is a welcome opportunity to address long-standing concerns with how efficiently and effectively the U.S. government conducts review and approval of defense exports. AIA has consistently advocated for making America’s security cooperation enterprise more accountable, predictable, transparent and efficient.


The Security Cooperation Enterprise is tasked with reviewing and approving defense transfers to U.S. allies and partners and involves several agencies and offices spread across the U.S. government. The most critical measure of its success is whether the system helps our partners be ready, resilient, and relevant to deter or defend against common adversaries, consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives. By that measure, the enterprise is not as effective as it could be.

In 2017, $20 billion in U.S. defense exports created ~$52 billion in positive economic impacts, translating into 200,000+ American jobs

Even with this inefficient organizational structure, the enterprise provides a positive impact on the U.S. economy – in 2017, $20 billion in U.S. defense exports created almost $52 billion in positive economic impacts for our nation, translating into more than 200,000 high quality American jobs. But increasing demand for American defense products has strained the government’s current review and approval process, resulting in an overburdened and fragmented process beset by avoidable delays. Worse, no one department or agency is solely responsible or accountable for the review, complicating attempts to streamline the process.

Increasing demand for American defense products has strained the government’s current review and approval process, resulting in an overburdened and fragmented process beset by avoidable delays

The current Security Cooperation Enterprise is not adequately staffed or organized to fulfill the requirements of U.S. national security in a timely manner. Whenever countries are forced to wait for a favorable determination to receive a U.S. defense solution, it impedes their ability to address our common interests. To meet the foundational imperatives of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, there must be a paradigm shift that maximizes benefits from “outpartnering” our adversaries.That means providing our allies and partners an expedited approval and delivery process to obtain U.S.-made equipment. This will promote time-sensitive foreign policy and national security objectives and enhance interoperability with U.S. forces. A new way forward is increasingly important in what has become a time-sensitive, zero-sum game for influence in the global security arena where every sale won or lost has an enduring impact. It’s a win for our allies, who want to align with American values and security interests, and a win for the U.S. defense industry and American workers.


While we will be providing additional detailed policy and process reform recommendations going forward, AIA has two primary recommendations for Security Cooperation Enterprise Reform:

  1. The Administration should implement a National Security Cooperation Strategy that:
    > Identifies Priorities for Building Partner Capacity as a Component of U.S. National Security Strategy
    > Aligns U.S. Industry Programs and Technology Development with Security Cooperation Priorities
    > Streamlines Technology Review and Contracting for Priority Security Cooperation Transactions
    > Promotes the Competitiveness of American Defense and Security Technologies in Priority Regions
  2. The U.S. Government should develop an interagency monitoring mechanism with a lead U.S. Government agency
    accountable for tracking, expediting, and addressing policy or process obstacles to delivering capabilities selected by
    international customers enabled by priority security cooperation transactions.

Read the full list of industry priority topics here.

By Remy Nathan, originally published in Defense One
Defense exports advance U.S. foreign policy and national security interests; when used effectively, they enable our allies and partners to help frustrate and isolate our adversaries and competitors. These exports also save money for the U.S. military while creating enduring foreign policy leverage fueled by training, maintenance, and spare parts. Unfortunately, the U.S. government’s system for determining what weapons get exported and to where is fragmented and slow. The White House should develop a National Security Cooperation Strategy to guide the current system with a more efficient and transparent whole-of-government approach. Read the full op-ed.


Remy Nathan

Vice President, International Affairs & Policy Integration

Dak Hardwick

Assistant Vice President, International Affairs

Kelvin Stroud

Director, International Affairs & Policy Integration