Center for Strategic Decision Research



International Cooperation

Mr. Alfred Volkman
Director for International Cooperation
Office of the United States Under Secretary of Defense

As a practitioner of international cooperation within the Department of Defense, I will say that within the U.S. Department of Defense, we are very committed to international cooperation in the development of both equipment and technologies. My office, which is responsible for the development activities, not the actual sale of equipment that is being produced, handles over 100 cooperative agreements every year. We do it because it makes military sense to do it; we do it because it contributes to our national security. Obviously, there are other reasons to do it such as economic reasons and, as we discussed throughout the conference, we need to cooperate for economic reasons because we need to combine our resources and save money. Defense budgets in general are not going to go up and they are not going to go up in the United States either, at least for the acquisition and development of equipment. So we must find ways to cooperate together intelligently and efficiently and we do a pretty good job of it, I think. Programs like the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)—although the U.S. is the biggest contributor, it is good to have partners contributing to that program—or the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and, I hope, the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance System (AGS), are good expenditures of our resources.

However, from my perspective in the Pentagon, there are two impediments that greatly inhibit more successful arms cooperation. Here, I am going to be critical of my own government but as an American, it is part of my birth right to be critical of my government. The first impediment is the U.S. Congress. The Congress is primarily a problem, not because it is hostile toward international cooperation but because it is indifferent to international cooperation. Now admittedly, there are a few congressmen who are protectionist, who do things like introduce legislation that is not useful but, although some of it is passed, by and large that legislation is not passed. But there is general indifference and lack of understanding in the U.S. Congress of the benefits of cooperating with our allies and that is unfortunate. We need to do a better job of correcting that. The other impediment of course is, as Admiral Ray has pointed out, the whole problem associated with technology transfer in the United States. We have a technology transfer process that is slow, ungainly, and opaque. Nobody can really understand what is going on, often even those people who are involved in the process. And frankly, it makes sense to be cautious in the control and transfer of your most sensitive military technologies. Any intelligent administrator will say these are costly military technologies that we spent a lot of money on, they give us a military edge, and we should be careful of how we transfer them. So I do not think anybody who has any thought about it argues that we should not be cautious on how we transfer these technologies. As Admiral Ray said, in fact we do transfer a lot of technology because it is in our national interest to have strong allies and if we can benefit their military strength by transferring technology, we should do it. The problem is that we do it in a very difficult manner. And frankly, although I often place the blame on another government agency, like the Department of State, much of the blame rests on the U.S. Department of Defense. Within the U.S. Department of Defense, we have four different processes that we use to look at the transfer of technology; those processes frequently are conducted not concurrently but serially and take a long time and people do not know what is going on. So the good news, at least from the Department of Defense perspective, is that we have been asked—I have been asked along with one of my colleagues who works for the Under Secretary for Policy—to look at these processes and try to find ways that we can make more timely, clear technology transfer decisions, and we are doing that.

But I think that there is a more fundamental problem in the sense that the U.S. has an arms export control process, an arms export control law, and practices in the Department of State and in the Department of Defense that are relics of the Cold War and badly need to be examined and to be reformed so that we can make more rapid and more intelligent decisions. So we are committed in the Department of Defense to making technology transfer decisions and are looking at better ways to do this. I can understand the frustration of our allies and frankly our contractors when they try to get a quick decision out of the U.S. Government on a technology transfer issue. It is not easy to do, I will be the first to admit it, but it does happen and we get it done eventually.


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