Defense Secretary Austin has approved the recommendations of Defense Department review into accelerating and improving the department’s role in foreign military sales (FMS), with some of the taskings calling for closer engagement with allies and partners to better understand requirements as part of the demand signals to industry, and a new governance board that will oversee implementation of the review and focus on continuous process improvement.

The FMS Tiger Team was stood up last summer at Austin’s direction to address long-standing and entrenched inefficiencies and hurdles in U.S. sales of defense systems to allies and partners, who are central to the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy. The high-level results were released on Tuesday, although the full findings are not public “due to sensitivities surrounding evaluating existing FMS packages,” a DoD spokeswoman said.

The dozens of recommendations can be grouped into six categories, including having a better understanding up front of allied and partner needs, which should lead to a “positive outcome on the back end,” Sasha Baker, deputy under secretary of defense for policy, said during a media briefing.

Combining allied and partner demands with U.S. needs will allow industry to “build to the total system demand,” said Radha Plumb, deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. She also said that DoD is incentivizing industry to invest in capacity by making more use of multi-year contracts and other authorities “to accelerate acquisition pathways.”

Part of meeting the security assistance needs of America’s allies and partners and ensuring they align with U.S. objectives is involving the U.S. Combatant Commands (COCOMs) that operate in various regions of the globe as part of the FMS process more closely, Baker said. The COCOMs can help keep senior DoD officials aware of priorities and if “something has gone wrong or sideways that needs to be fixed imminently,” she said.

A second category of recommendations is around more efficiently reviewing the release of sensitive technology, which can be held up due to “disclosure concerns,” Baker said. Reviews of prior use cases have shown that internal discussions over whether a certain technology can be supplied to an ally at times are “endless” and “we’re grinding our gears,” she said.

Now, there will be more training and mechanisms for those involved in security cooperation to “empower accountable officials to drive that process to a decision” so that “higher level officials” can more quickly be involved, Baker said. Related to this was a finding that as a whole “we as a department have not adequately trained, organized or equipped ourselves for security cooperation as a core mission,” she said.

To this end, Austin has approved the creation of a Defense Security Cooperation Service, which Baker said is like the Defense Attaché Service, that will focus on the professional training for security cooperation officers to “make good choices and decisions” when working with allies and partners. Better trained security cooperation officers will help allies and partners they are engaging with to request the assistance more clearly and in a way that “makes it easy for us here back in Washington to say, ‘Yes,’” she said.

The next set of recommendations is about meeting the needs of allies and partners with “relevant priority capabilities,” which may be non-programs of record, Baker said.

Accelerating DoD’s acquisition and contracting support for DoD is another key area of recommendations, the officials said. The department will establish metrics and standards to internally track the progress of FMS contract awards, which will strengthen accountability and help meet schedules, Plumb said. Industry feedback as part of the Tiger Team review demonstrated a desire to accelerate acquisition and contracting support around non-programs of record, she said.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the lead DoD entity for security assistance, is the “keeper of an enormous amount of data on all aspects of the FMS system” and the task going forward is to leverage that information in a “digestible” format on a dashboard for DoD executives to give them greater awareness of FMS cases and to warn if “the system is blinking red” and why, Baker said.

The final set of recommendations is about “ensuring we have broad government support and continuous process improvement,” Baker said, stressing that enhancements to the way DoD does its FMS cases will be “iterative” and ongoing.

DoD’s FMS review was separate from one being done by the Department of State, which examines each case for alignment with U.S. foreign policy and security objectives.

Austin launched the DoD FMS review amid Ukraine’s constant need for U.S. weapons and related systems to sustain its fight against Russia’s invasion of that country and concerns that in the coming years China could militarily threaten Taiwan, which is a U.S. partner. The war in Ukraine has revealed shortcomings in U.S. industrial base capacity to support a long-term conflict.

Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that represents the U.S. aerospace and defense industry in Washington, D.C., called the DoD announcement “an important first step in the modernization of the foreign military sales system.” Industry is ready to work with DoD, Congress and the federal government, allies, and partners “to create actionable results now, as well as to continue the dialogue about how to speed up the process,” he said in a statement.

While the engagements with allies and partners showed “legitimate and genuine complaints,” which are nothing new, Baker said that U.S. security assistance is still seen as the “gold standard” because in addition to the military systems, it also includes training, maintenance, and sustainment. The U.S. often does “get it right” and it adds up to “a pretty incredible value proposition for the partner,” she said.

Improving the DoD’s FMS process likely won’t be easy. Baker said in the past 20 years there’s been an FMS reform effort about every 18 months and the problems found in the latest review “had in fact been identified in the past and simply not corrected.”