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AUSA: Brass hopes international sales buoy Army modernization

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The boom years of defense spending have ended and Uncle Sam is now looking overseas to help pay for his ambitious set of weapons programs.

Army generals can't stop saying "foreign military sales" here at the Association of the U.S. Army's Winter Symposium. It keeps popping up in speeches or in conversations on the floor.

Why develop a Humvee replacement by yourself when so many other countries' armies are driving the same aging truck fleet? Of course, defense analysts here are quick to point out that most other countries are facing similar defense financial straits.

This leaves Army leadership in a bind because they can't start shilling for defense companies even though it would help their bottom line if the Saudis or Australians bought a few more helicopters from Bell or trucks from Oskosh to keep the defense industry afloat.

Oshkosh Defense President John Urias said he's had recent meetings with Saudi Arabia and UAE military officials about purchasing variants from its substantial truck fleet. However, the defense industry needs the Pentagon's help in speeding up the FMS process, he said.

"It just takes too long," said Urias when asked about the FMS process.

He wants to see the military strip out some of the bureaucratic hurdles associated with FMS sales. Countries want to buy the military equipment used by the U.S., but they don't want to wait too long, Urias said.

Chief Army weapons buyer Heidi Shyu said the service is willing to work with the defense industry to lessen the strain associated with FMS, but certain hurdles were put in place for good reason to allow the U.S. military to maintain an edge.

The Army has found that it has too many trucks now that soldiers have left Iraq and will leave Afghanistan by 2014. The service plans to cut 27,000 trucks from its fleet. Col. David Bassett, program manager for Tactical Vehicles, said FMS will be considered as the service figures out how to divest those trucks.

"Across the entire vehicle fleet, we'll evaluate opportunities for FMS," Bassett said.

 

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