By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 18, 2009 - The Iraqi government is using the Defense Department's Foreign Military Sales program to rebuild and strengthen Iraqi security forces, a colonel involved in the effort said. Air Force Col. Lawrence Avery Jr., deputy director of the security assistance office for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, described the fielding to bloggers and online journalists during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable March 16.
"First, we concentrated on equipping what I would call a very light infantry, ... basically a soldier with a body armor, a helmet, a weapon, a Humvee and a radio," Avery said. "On the navy side, they bought a few small boats for ... protection of their sea lines of communication. On the air force side, they actually have some small aircraft that do intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance-type missions."
Avery added that in addition to strengthening the Iraqi security forces, the program has been used to train and equip Iraqi defense and interior forces.
Avery, who has been working on the Iraqi military sales program since it was started in Iraq in 2005, said Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq has been helping Iraq build its counterinsurgency forces.
"It wasn't until recently that they started looking at modernizing those forces into more of a strategic defense/defense-of-the-homeland kind of forces," he said. "And these first three modernization cases -- for the M-1A1 Abrams tanks, the armed scout helicopters and the C-130J's -- is really their first move in that direction toward strategic defense."
The command's efforts in supporting the Iraqi Defense Ministry and army represent a vital step toward ensuring Iraq's self-sufficiency for the future, he added.
Foreign Military Sales is the government-to-government method for selling U.S. defense equipment, services, and training. It is part of a normal security cooperation relationship between the United States and many other countries, he said.
"Worldwide, there are about 140 countries that use the FMS program, and they use it to buy military equipment, training, support," Avery said. He added that Iraq is serious about the FMS program because officials view it as an anti-corruption mechanism to build and equip their security forces, he said.
"Nobody can get their hands on the money; nobody decides who the contracts go to," Avery said.
All of the contracting for the FMS program goes through the Defense Department acquisition system. FMS has been in use in Iraq since 2005, Avery said, and Iraq has spent $4.5 billion in the program so far.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)