CAPITOL HILL: The head of Air Force acquisition, just back from the Dubai Air Show, said the United States must act fast to make it easier and quicker for allies to buy US weapons through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system.
If we don’t, Bill LaPLante said at an event put by on the Lexington Institute, a Washington thinktank, then we have to accept that our allies will buy Chinese weapons, even if they are copies of US gear and don’t work nearly as well as US weapons.
“US stuff is in incredibly high demand. Overseas people are desperate, they are desperate for our stuff,” Bill LaPLante told an event put on the Lexington Institute, a Washington thinktank. “We need to do something about it. It’s urgent.”
LaPlante made his case bluntly and with force: “Guess who’s over there selling stuff? I don’t know. China???” Their reconnaissance drone looked just like the Reaper. Their new fighter looks just like the F-35. Are they are as good, he asked rhetorically? Probably not. But LaPlante pointed to the intricate US system of approving Foreign Military Sales. It requires inputs and reviews by the State, Defense and Commerce departments. It requires congressional notification and review. It takes time, often years.
Do you think China has a policy limiting sales of armed drones, LaPlante asked? No. He said he’d held bilateral talks with Jordan, Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others about their interest in buying US weapons. “But our partners are saying, even if it [a Chinese weapon] doesn’t work, I can buy theirs. even if it doesn’t work that well and works about a third of the time. It’s still worth it,” LaPlante said they told him. “Those guys are at war and it’s existential for them.”
So I asked the head of Air Force acquisition how he would speed things up. He was honest and said we wouldn’t like the answer. He doesn’t have one, at least not yet. In the meantime, he asked for help from industry and other experts to press the case with Congress and the press. We need your help, LaPlante told them.