June 22, 2024

FMS 2023: Retooling Foreign Military Sales for An Age of Strategic Competition

FMS 2023: Retooling Foreign Military Sales for An Age of Strategic Competition

Foreign Military Sales (FMS) are a key U.S. arms transfer mechanism and an important tool of U.S. foreign policy.  Overseen by the U.S. Department of State and implemented through the U.S. Department of Defense, FMS is one of many ways the United States promotes interoperability and strengthens our unmatched network of alliances and security partnerships worldwide.

On average, Allies and partners purchase approximately $45 billion annually in U.S. arms, equipment, and training via FMS, and from 2021 to 2022, implemented FMS purchases grew by 49 percent.  But amid shifting global security conditions, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, to managing competition in the Indo-Pacific, as well as industrial capacity challenges and global supply change disruptions, the time has come to reassess and adapt security cooperation to meet new and emerging challenges.

Building on the National Security Strategy and the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has undertaken a comprehensive review of the Department’s oversight of FMS.  This review complemented DoD’s parallel review of its own FMS implementation mechanisms.  The result is FMS 2023: a new 10-point plan of action to re-tool the Department of State’s oversight of FMS for an age of heightened strategic competition.

While 95 percent of FMS cases are evaluated and approved by the Department of State within 48 hours, FMS 2023 examined how the Department’s review process can be improved for the remaining 5 percent of cases, which may entail complex policy issues and extensive interagency coordination.  Together with DoD, we will support U.S. industry as it scales up to meet growing global demand among Allies and partners in the years ahead.

FMS 2023 Initiatives are focused on improving the efficiency and competitiveness of Foreign Military Sales at all phases:  from strategic planning to case adjudication, to administering implementation of current and future FMS cases.


  1. Developing A Regional Approach to Arms Transfers. When adjudicating proposed FMS cases for one country, we can save time on the policy approval process and further improve interoperability between U.S. and foreign partners by anticipating comparable demands for its neighbors and making anticipatory policy decisions for these countries’ potential future FMS purchases as well.
  1. Prioritizing cases for FMS based on National Security Strategy goals. Where possible, we can prioritize and provide expedited planning assistance to partners identified as priorities in the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and DoD’s regional Combatant Command Theater Campaign Plans.
  1. Promoting proactive, forward-looking uses of the Special Defense Acquisition Fund (SDAF). SDAF allows for the rapid delivery of selected defense articles and services in advance of normal procurement lead-times.  By identifying key capabilities in demand by multiple partners we can reduce long-lead time articles by months, or even years and accelerate delivery timelines.


  1. Refining implementation of the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Export Policy. UAS can provide Allies and partners important capabilities for a range of operational requirements.  Refining internal Department processes for adjudicating potential UAS transfers will expedite arms transfer policy decisions.
  1. Improving Security Cooperation Officer (SCO) Training. At U.S. embassies overseas, the SCO is a key player in working with Allies and partners to develop arms transfer cases and security cooperation partnerships.  Improving SCO training and curriculum will improve their ability to develop proposed FMS cases.
  1. Working with Congress to Improve Consultation through the Tiered Review (TR) process. Congress provides extremely important input for FMS cases that require Congressional notification.  We are committed to exploring process improvements with our committees of jurisdiction to improve the quality of our consultations and demonstrate to partners and industry why the United States remains their security partner of choice.
  1. Modernizing the Congressional Notification Process. Eliminating duplicative reporting to Congress and prioritizing consultations on critical potential arms transfers, all while maintaining transparency on Congressionally notified FMS cases.


  1. Limiting Special Security Arrangements (SSAs). Standard FMS measures can provide sufficient safeguards to technology and end-use under most circumstances.  We can reduce delivery times to select partners by up to two years by reducing the overuse of SSAs while maintaining appropriate technology security measures.
  1. Streamlining Internal Processes to Avoid delivery delays and Manage Expectations Where They Occur. Reassure Allies and partners in the viability of FMS by optimizing internal coordination to maintain awareness of changes in case status and work with the Chiefs of Mission to convey these delays to our partners.
  1. Advancing the Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy Working Group (WG) initiatives. As part of the new CAT Policy, the Department is working with DoD to improve FMS processes and provide enhanced options to Allies and partners by:  1) addressing long standing challenges facing innovative and flexible financing mechanisms, 2) improving the process for procuring Non-Program of Record platforms, 3) building exportability into the development process, and 4) improving technology security and releasability processes.

For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at [email protected], and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/fms-2023-retooling-foreign-military-sales-for-an-age-of-strategic-competition/