Despite other areas of disagreement involving the defense budget and U.S. military strategy in the Middle East, the Obama Administration and Senate Republicans might be uniting to fast-track the sale of U.S. defense articles and services to U.S. allies fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”). Consider three recent developments involving Jordan.
- On February 3, the U.S. State Department announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) for a three-year increase in the amount of U.S. assistance going to the Government of Jordan. From FY 2015 through FY 2017, subject to appropriations and availability of funds, Jordan will receive $1 billion/year, up from $660 million/year. The increase “is designed to address Jordan’s short-term, extraordinary needs . . . .”
- On February 4, the Senate Armed Services Committee (“SASC”) wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, requesting the expedited adjudication of backlogged foreign military sales (“FMS”) of critical military equipment. The SASC urged Secretaries Kerry and Hagel to “adjudicate the cases associated with various requests made by the Jordanian Armed Forces with a sense of urgency reflecting the pace of events, and in the context of their determined resolve to fight ISIL . . . .” The SASC asked for a briefing on the FMS backlog, to include “(a) a list of cases or requests related to military items that would go to Jordan; (b) an explanation of steps needed for approval; and (c) an estimated timeline for approval.” In addition, the SASC suggested that it might consider legislation “to ensure the objective of Jordan being properly equipped in the fight against violent extremism.”
- During his February 4 confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter told the SASC that he too supported weapons sales to Jordan, a “partner on the ground to beat ISIS.” He pledged, if confirmed, to tackle the unnecessary “red tape” slowing military sales to Jordan.
We will monitor whether the Obama Administration and Congress cooperate to achieve these goals. We note, however, that there may be other opportunities to sell defense articles to Jordan, not just through FMS but also through direct commercial sales (“DCS”). In that regard, Jordan is one of just ten foreign countries eligible to receive Foreign Military Financing (“FMF”) from the U.S. Government—essentially, a DCS transaction that is financed by the United States, not by Jordan. Jordan’s ability to use FMF might provide the U.S. Government and its contractors with other opportunities to immediately increase security cooperation with Jordan.