James, speaking Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C, said she recently returned from a “whirlwind tour” of the Middle East and North Africa, where leaders “want more engagement with the United States -- with training and exercises, and buying and upgrading equipment.”
All told, more than 50 counties are involved in varying degrees with the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, James said. In meetings with officials from a number of them -- including Morocco, Egypt and Djibouti -- she found an interest in “the whole package” of US engagement. Not merely buying equipment, but in training forces and maintaining equipment.
“So the bottom line is, I believe, the US is the partner-of-choice for all of them, but they face challenges working with us in getting the whole package,” James said.
“I realized I couldn’t fix all of it but I would do what I could,” she added. “So I directed my staff to find out how the Air Force can speed up our part of the process, and work with other stakeholders to make sure that US security cooperation efforts are responsive to evolving needs, such as the demand for munitions … based on partner engagement with Syria and Iraq.”
Toward that end, the Air Force is now working to produce a strategy to identify capabilities that it would like to see partner countries acquire, James said.
“That would allow us to better forecast and prepare for future foreign military sales activity,” she said.
Related to that is the challenge many countries face in acquiring US equipment or capabilities because of the prohibitions on the transfer of some technologies, James said. These can delay sales and agreements while everything is scrutinized, she said.
For that reason, James said she hopes to “speed up” the process by establishing “pre-approved … technology transfer baselines” for basic Air Force systems.
“So instead of waiting for a partner to request a capability, and then they enter into what can be a very lengthy process to determine whether or not we can actually transfer it, this pre-approved baseline should cut the process down by weeks if not months … at least for certain technologies,” she said.
--Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.