On October 15, 2019, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced that foreign arm sales for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 totaled $55.4 billion.

This amount nearly matches the total from FY 2018 of $55.7 billion, continuing the significant increase in foreign arm sales under the Trump Administration and potentially signaling that the enormous 33 percent

On May 23, 2019, multiple news outlets reported that the White House was considering an emergency declaration to permit arms shipments to Saudi Arabia without Congressional approval.  These reports were met with sharp criticism by multiple legislators.  These recent developments shine a spotlight on the contours of the Congressional notice and approval mechanisms set forth in the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

AECA (22 U.S.C. § 2751 et seq.) is the authorizing statute for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.  AECA and the implementing guidance from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) set forth the procedures for the development of a transaction under the FMS program, referred to as an FMS case.

Once an FMS case has been negotiated between the U.S. Government and the foreign government purchaser, the White House is required submit a formal notification to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (although this requirement is subject to country- and defense article-specific dollar value thresholds).  Congress then has 30 days (or 15 days for certain proposed sales to a NATO county, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel, or New Zealand) to enact a joint resolution opposing the sale.  Unless a joint resolution is passed within the time period, Congress is considered to have consented to the sale.


Continue Reading Congress Braces for a Fight Over Executive Authority Under the Arms Export Control Act

Earlier this month, the FAR Council issued a proposed rule to expand the definition of “commercial item” under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to include certain items sold in substantial quantities to foreign governments.  This new rule implements section 847 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2018 (Pub. L. 115-91), and has the potential to extend commercial item status to defense articles that have been sold to foreign militaries, including sales under the Foreign Military Financing program.

Ensuring the commercial item status of products and services has long been a key point of federal contracting compliance for many businesses, as commercial item contracts typically avoid many of the more burdensome provisions imposed by the FAR.  While the term “commercial item” is often generalized to refer to items offered for sale to the general public for non-governmental purposes, the definition of “commercial item” under FAR 2.101 includes certain items used for governmental purposes and sold in substantial quantities to multiple state and local governments.  See FAR 2.101.  This provision permitted products like protective equipment used by police and fire departments to be deemed commercial items.


Continue Reading Proposed Rule Offers Foreign Military Sales as a Potential Pathway to Commerciality

Last month, the Department of Defense Inspector General announced that it was undertaking an audit of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Agreement Development Process.  The audit will assess how the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Military Departments, and other organizations coordinate foreign government requirements for defense articles and services and whether DoD maximizes the results of the FMS agreement development process.

The audit is in response to a congressional reporting requirement included in the House Report to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.  The House Report noted Congressional concern that the FMS process is “slow, cumbersome, and overly complicated,” and that the acquisition decisions supporting the FMS process are “stovepiped,” leading to an FMS program that is “not coordinated holistically across [DoD] to prioritize resources and effort in support of U.S. national security objectives and the defense industrial base.”  Consequently, Congress directed DoD to conduct this audit of the FMS program and submit a final report to Congress.  The tone and language of the House Report indicates that Congress is seeking to streamline the process for all stakeholders, including the U.S. military, foreign partners, and industry.  The House Report specifically calls out precision guided munitions as a focal point for additional foreign military sales that may mitigate risk to the U.S. industrial base.


Continue Reading Inspector General Audit of the FMS Program Underway

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently published a decision that expanded on its prior Trimble ruling that a foreign government customer cannot sue a U.S. contractor in the Foreign Military Sales (“FMS”) context (at least in U.S. courts).  In BAE Sys. Tech. Solution & Servs., Inc. v. Republic of Korea’s Def. Acq. Program Admin., 884 F.3d 463 (4th Cir. 2018), the Korean government claimed that BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services, Inc. (“BAE”) breached a side agreement that BAE executed with Korea (the “BAE-Korea Agreement”).  The BAE-Korea Agreement, which was separate from the FMS agreement between the U.S. and Korea (the “U.S.-Korea Agreement”), required BAE to use its best efforts to negotiate favorable pricing terms in the FMS transaction between the U.S. Government and Korea, and permitted the courts in Korea to hear disputes arising under the agreement.

BAE secured a favorable declaratory judgment from a U.S. district court to the effect that it had complied with the best efforts undertaking, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed on the broader ground that enforcing the BAE-Korea agreement would be contrary to the policy of the Arms Export Control Act (“AECA”) and the principles laid down by the Fourth Circuit in the 2007 Trimble decision, which held that foreign customers in an FMS transaction cannot sue U.S. contractors under a third-party beneficiary theory.  However, both courts declined to enjoin Korea’s lawsuit in the Korean courts.

The Fourth Circuit’s decision suggests some guidance for U.S. contractors about entering into similar FMS side agreements in light of both U.S. and foreign litigation risks.
Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Further Defines Scope of Contractor Risks in the FMS Sales Context

U.S. and Israeli defense industries are anxious for details of a ten-year, $38.8 billion military assistance package that was signed in Washington this past September. Whether the terms of the aid package are upended entirely or left mostly unchanged by the current incoming administration will have far reaching consequences on future U.S. and Israeli government

A recent opinion by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (the “Court”)—Hyperion, Inc. v. United States, No. 14-870C, — Fed. Cl. — (Mar. 18, 2015)—is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it illustrates the “international agreement” exception to the Competition in Contracting Act (“CICA”). This exception permits the U.S. Government to award a contract to a U.S. contractor without full and open competition, even on a sole-source basis, when procuring items for a foreign government, in accordance with the “written direction[]” of the foreign government—as can occur through foreign military sales (“FMS”). In full, it states:

The head of an agency may use procedures other than competitive procedures [] when . . . . the terms of an international agreement or a treaty between the United States and a foreign government or international organization, or the written directions of a foreign government reimbursing the agency for the cost of the procurement of the property or services for such government, have the effect of requiring the use of such procedures other than competitive procedures.

10 U.S.C. § 2304(c)(4). Second, the opinion and its procedural history raise thorny questions about whether bid protest challenges to FMS solicitations and awards are consistent with the goals of the bid protest process and U.S. foreign policy.
Continue Reading Recent Application of “International Agreement” Exception Raises Questions Regarding Bid Protest Challenges to Foreign Military Sales

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.
Continue Reading Increasing U.S. Sales of Defense Articles and Services to Jordan