The Air Force’s top official overseeing foreign military sales is set to take over as director of the Pentagon’s technology transfer office in January, and plans to push for continued reform on drone exports to boost sales of the MQ-9 and addressing impacts of Turkey’s potential removal from the F-35 program.

Heidi Grant, who has served as the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary of international affairs since 2010, told reporters Tuesday she will look to continue expanding the Pentagon’s foreign military sales portfolio as director of the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) and push U.S. industry to develop capabilities that are built for export upfront.

Heidi Grant, the next director of the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration
Heidi Grant, the next director of the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration

“My leadership philosophy is how do I get to “yes,” but still protect our military edge,” Grant said. “[I’ll be] looking at incentives for industry to build our systems for export upfront, and that will expedite being able to sell them and ensure protections are in place. What happens now is things are built for the U.S. and when there’s customer demand, partner demand, then they start reconfiguring for export. It puts us two years behind and allows the competition to get in front of us.”

Grant specifically pointed to unmanned aerial systems as an example where other countries are exporting technology before the U.S. can get to the international market.

The White House in April rolled out a new policy lessening regulations on UAS exports (Defense Daily, April 19).

“I haven’t seen significant change based on the policy. I think what it’s done though is provided clarity that wasn’t out there before,” Grant told reporters.

Grant added she plans to consult with the multinational Missile Technology Control Regime to improve protections needed to secure the market space for sales of the MQ-9 UAS.

DTSA will also look into current restrictions on direct commercial sales of large UAS, according to Grant, who will soon be tasked with assessing potential weapons sales to ensure exports wouldn’t lead to loss of technological advantage or potential sharing of sensitive U.S. military information.

“There are still going to be some systems that need to be protected,” Grant said.

Grant told reporters she plans to closely monitor Turkey’s potential purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system which could lead to the country’s removal from the F-35 program, but added she believed such a move would have minimal impact on the aircraft’s industrial base.

“While it will have some impact on the F-35 program, I don’t think it’s going to be any type of devastating impact,” Grant said.

The DoD has not announced a final decision on Turkey’s fate with regards to the F-35 if it follows through on the plan to purchase the S-400. Congress has raised concerns that the missile system could potentially provide opportunities for Russia to gain sensitive information on the F-35.

“If they’ve made up their mind already, they’re a sovereign nation, to buy another country’s system, we’re going to have to work through those policy issues,” Grant said.

Turkey is scheduled to receive 100 F-35’s over the span of the program, while the most recent defense authorization bill halted sales until the Pentagon delivered a report detailing the impacts of the country’s S-400 purchase (Defense Daily, July 24).

Grant will take over as DTSA director on Jan. 7, where she will succeed Michael Laychak.