Pentagon looking to speed up arms sales to allies – WSJ
Mounting tensions with China and the conflict in Ukraine have prompted the Pentagon to create a special task force to facilitate arms sales to Washington’s allies, a senior US defense official has told the Wall Street Journal.
The so-called “Tiger team” was put together in August to look for ways to deliver US-made weapons to foreign buyers faster, the outlet said in its article on Friday. The new body is co-chaired by two under secretaries of defense, while also including representatives from the Pentagon’s various services.
“It’s about the mechanical steps in the process,” the official told the WSJ. “How can we do a better job of bringing inefficiencies out of the system that will apply to all of the countries that we work with?”
According to the source, the review was launched due to mounting tensions with China over Taiwan and the need to refill the arsenals of US allies in Europe, which have been depleted due to them supplying arms to Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia.
“The longstanding argument for American equipment is that it is the best – and it is the best,” an official said. “That also makes it the most expensive, it’s not cheap.”
Washington has been concerned that the high prices and complicated approval process for arms sales, which are executed by the Pentagon under the supervision of the State Department and require consent from Congress, has been putting the US at a disadvantage in its competition with China and Russia.
“That slow pace can leave some countries unsure if the US really wants them as partners and risks sending countries with whom the US wants to stay close elsewhere to shop for arms,” the outlet pointed out.
While working on removing bureaucratic hurdles inside the US, the task force could also see American officials helping foreign buyers to better formulate their requests for arms so that they won’t be too broad or trigger security concerns, a senior defense official said.
Former secretary of the navy Richard Spencer has welcomed the new policy, saying it was high time to make changes to the arm sales system. “The building has to get agility. We are sclerotic, we are arthritic, we have to get over it,” he insisted.
However, there are concerns that the task force won’t be able to resolve all of the problems, as many of them are rooted in the way the US defense industry operates and the country’s tight labor market.
“The US defense industry isn’t designed like it was in World War II,” one official pointed out. “They don’t produce things just because we ask them to. They have to have a contract in hand.”
Another issue that may complicate the expedition of foreign arms sales is the “worrisome” shortages of Washington’s own stocks of weapons and ammunition due to the billions in military aid provided to Kiev, the WSJ said.