DSCA Director's Blog

Here you will find thoughts and messages from the Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and his staff.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Wishes

To all those in the security cooperation community I offer my warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy and fruitful new year.

The end of year is a perfect time to reflect on all we have accomplished in 2009, but it is no time to rest on our laurels. 2010 promises to be another exciting and extremely busy year as we work to provide defense solutions to America’s global partners.

Many of you will take some well deserved time off over the next couple of weeks. Please enjoy yourselves, and be safe!

I’ll share my three rules to live by…

First, did we brief it? It comes from two guys that used the rules of thumb from a scenario that did not apply in the situation they were in and almost got one of them killed. Having a sound game plan is a best practice.

Second, would I do this if the Boss was watching? It comes from mishaps that would never have occurred if the Boss knew what was about to be attempted.

And third, ten years from now would this be a big deal? This follows experiences where emotions in the heat of the moment took over common sense. So, consider these before attempting unusual activities.

All the best to you and have Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Continuous Process Improvement

As you could note on my biography, I am a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. If that lingo has no meaning to you, no worries, just know I care about continuous process improvement.

Skeptics sometimes refer to it as the “next flavor of the day.” After personally watching it work for the past five years, I would argue, factually, it is not the flavor of the day.

In my first Director’s Blog, I wrote about our Case Writing Division. However, DSCA’s 60 green belts and 4 black belts are working numerous other continuous process improvement projects.

A good example would be pricing and availability data or “How much does that pickup truck cost and when could I get one delivered.” Obviously we deal with equipment much more complicated. However, using continuous process improvement methods, we’ve reduced the cycle time from as much as a year down to days, and in some cases hours.

Continuous Process Improvement benefits are three-fold. First, it improves performance and service for our global partners. Second, it improves quality of work for our employees, and third, it improves quality of life and service to our country.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Americans have a lot to be thankful for. In spite of the fact that we have combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stressed economy and significant unemployment, we enjoy a safe and secure homeland.

As I travel around the world, it is good to come home and enjoy what we have.

Now, as we pause to give thanks for all we do have, it is particularly important to thank our men and women both in and out of uniform around the world contributing to our safety and security.

So, here is my most personal thanks to those serving our country and our global partners, with special thanks to those in the security cooperation community serving our country by strengthening our global partners.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

H1N1 Risk to Continuity of Operations

Several months ago, I admitted to our leadership team, after considering the impending risk of an H1N1 pandemic, I was very uncomfortable with our preparedness to deal with this threat.

Our strategy directorate conducted research and facilitated a table-top exercise. This effort resulted in some exceptional pre-mishap planning, including clarification of trigger levels that initiate leadership and team actions. Action plans were also laid out and clarified.

A key challenge faced by the team was that in any one week, DSCA personnel can be spread around the world. This makes gathering accurate organizational data daunting. Yet, on a daily basis, we know, by desk location, if there is an H1N1 illness. We can then track the world for potential travel plans.

What was most remarkable was to watch a trustworthy and motivated leadership in action displaying a diversity of thoughts, as they worked through the measure/countermeasure options to an effective strategy remarkably different than what we started with.

It is yet another remarkable example of what the DSCA team can accomplish with trust, talent, tactical information, communication, and action.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Transitioning to 2010

As we transition into Fiscal Year 2010, I’ve identified three priority issues that need to be resolved as we move toward the agency’s strategic goals.

First is the world-wide review of the security cooperation staffing requirements. This effort has only just begun, yet we intend to be complete in about 6 months.

Second is ensuring at least 95% of the folks who work in the domain of security cooperation are trained. Historically, my instincts tell me it was not that much of an issue – but now, with an explosion in scope, it is an issue. About a month ago, as I looked at the data, nearly half of the folks forward in Iraq and Afghanistan working security cooperation have no experience and no training. One of our first challenges is to clarify which billets require what security cooperation training. We have begun that task, but like many things, it is more complicated than it appears at first glance.

Our third priority is to operationalize our strategic plan. Several weeks ago, I signed the Strategic Plan. Our Chief Performance Officer Freda Lodge wanted to go beyond that. So, over the past few months, each of the directorates in DSCA developed detailed action plans on how they would execute their part of the Strategic Plan. Last week, the DSCA leadership team traveled to an off-site and reviewed, critiqued, and made recommendations. We left, inspired, energized, and determined to operationalize the Strategic Plan. I look forward to keeping you appraised of our progress.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Record High Foreign Military Sales

In the realm of Security Cooperation, we often struggle to capture metrics that illustrate trends and outcomes. However, one of our standard metrics has always been the level of Foreign Military Sales.

With Fiscal Year 2009 figures tallied, and looking back at our projected total sales of $40 billion, we can take pride in the fact we achieved a new record of $37.9 billion in sales. To put that in historical perspective, that is a 465% growth from a low point of $8.1 billion in FY 1998 and slightly over our previous record figure of $36.4 billion in FY 08.

These figures are indicative of the Security Cooperation community’s level of professionalism and drive to strengthen our partners by meeting their needs, which strengthens our national security.

While we may continue to struggle with capturing metrics, it is clear we have captured the professionalism and drive of the Security Cooperation community, leading us to project $38.4 billion in Foreign Military Sales for FY 10 and causing us to look forward to another record year together.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Admin Fee

In 2005 DSCA and representatives from the Army, Navy and Air Force worked to redefine the policy and admin fee rate. This effort was a business imperative. Now after several years of experience, the trust fund is healthy, which is good for the security cooperation community and our partners.

As a segue, unfortunately many of our international partners, industry and even some in our government do not understand the admin fee. Without getting into the legal details, simply put we operate the FMS enterprise at no profit, no loss to the taxpayer. The business model is based on a rolling set of average costs, not linked to any one case. Fundamentally, under our standard level of service, at a minimum from the fee, our customers get an annual Program Management Review and a Financial Management Review.

Setting specific dollar issues aside, there is a much more important aspect to this subject than money…it is leverage. The leverage of competence, knowledge, experience and expertise. Imagine almost any scenario where you are confronted with an extremely challenging situation that involves technical forensics, security or safety. Now imagine you don’t know what to do, or how to do it. As a direct product of FMS, and the admin fee, you have access to literally thousands of government experts that has acquired, operates and maintains the same equipment. They work with industry and have the ability to solve complex problems.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What is the “Total Package Approach?”

The Total Package Approach is a term we use to describe the security cooperation community’s philosophy that guides how we structure Foreign Military Sales (FMS).

Often I’ll hear from a foreign customer, “Why are you telling me this pick-up truck costs $25,000 dollars, when I found it on line for $15,000? In response, I usually ask, “Where did you get your price?” The answer most of the time is “Well, I Googled it!” What this answer fails to acknowledge is that the majority of the time, the sale is just not that simple. For example, let’s imagine that the pick-up truck needs to operate in the desert, in extreme temperatures and in a dusty environment. Let’s also imagine that the truck needs two-way radios that are interoperable with US and partner nations; and it must run on a fuel mixture not commonly available in the United States.

Sometimes simple purchases are not as simple as they might seem. And that’s just the initial package. Now, if we go for the total package under FMS, we’ll also ensure the truck comes with two years worth of filters, so that the vehicle will not choke on the dust and dirt. The FMS package will also make sure the trucks have special nozzles that can accept the foreign fuel and that the truck drivers have the training to drive and repair those trucks, and, oh by the way, operate those two-way radios!

I take each of these vignettes as an opportunity to educate our partners and others about the benefits of the Foreign Military Sales Program. The total package approach is, as its name implies, a complete approach to buying a system that will operate on delivery and still operate in two years. The Total Package will always consider the comprehensive needs for operating and maintaining a system upfront, not after there is a failure. These elements can include but are not limited to specialized training, spares, support equipment, publications, transportation and more. That's why the total package for the pick-up truck costs $25,000 and not $15,000.

Another by-product of the Total Package Approach is the time spent working with customers to identify their real needs. This builds reservoirs of trust and cooperation that can last for years, helping to cement important bilateral relationships between the United States and our international partners. It is very rewarding to work with partners who value our FMS process and appreciate the life cycle support.

I was with a foreign Chief of Air Force recently and he said, “We'll only go FMS! The total package approach is the right way to build relationships for the long haul.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All About Effecting Outcomes

People and organizations should put their time and energy into what is important. In other words, as VADM John Lockard, retired, former Commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, used to say, “It’s all about effecting outcomes.” The spirit of the concept is worth repeating and remembering.

As the leader of a defense agency responsible for $300 billion of equipment, training and services involving 213 countries and international organizations, I face many challenges. Inevitably, my team and I encounter complex problems which can be difficult to solve. I learned several decades ago that just because “everybody” identifies a problem, doesn’t mean that it has been solved. That problem can still develop into a crisis or, worse yet, a failure.

Asking and answering the following three questions at the outset will bring clarity and structure to the analysis. First, “What is the root cause of the problem?” Second, “What is the solution?” Finally, “Who is going to do the work?” Agreement on the answers to these questions provides a firm basis for implementation of a solution. Too often, differences of opinion on fundamental issues eat up valuable time, the lead-time to fix the problem passes, and the project fails. So, focusing on the three important questions is essential. The answers will tell you “How you can effect the outcome.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Information Technology Progress at DSCA

The impact of Information Technology on our daily lives is everywhere. And, like the rest of the world, the security cooperation community depends on IT tools to sustain its business.

More than a decade ago, DSCA and the security community began efforts to upgrade our legacy case development, implementation and execution business systems. The goal was to replace the outdated systems used by Army, Navy, and Air Force security cooperation organizations. It was a significant effort that turned out to be more difficult than anyone anticipated. The outdated case execution systems are still in use and the case development, implementation and training execution modules of the Defense Security Assistance Management System (DSAMS) have continued to be enhanced for the security cooperation community.

We have restarted the journey with a program for case execution we call the Security Cooperation Enterprise Solution (SCES). We’re partnering with the Business Transformation Agency and the Military Departments to drive discipline, diligence and encourage openness and collaboration throughout the acquisition process. We’re now completing the requirements definition stage. Soon we’ll work to validate the requirements and conduct an analysis of alternatives.

It’s a game changer, with a different acquisition strategy than the past. In my first Blog, I mentioned security cooperation activities are surging at all levels of our government and that includes IT. It’s critical to note whatever we do, we need to be interoperable with the emerging Navy, Army, Air Force and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Enterprise Resource Program (ERP) business systems. There is a tremendous team working on this project and they deserve our thanks and appreciation. Streamlining our IT systems will affect our future for decades.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Security Cooperation Review of Staffing Requirements

Over the past two years, we have worked hard to match the demand for foreign military sales with the supply of personnel in our implementing agencies. As a result, we increased funding for Army, Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard and Air Force personnel working on Foreign Military Sales. This increased resourcing was critical for the community given our 300-400 percent growth in sales since the 2000 time frame. Now, as our security cooperation enterprise expands and our business continues to grow, it's imperative we review our worldwide staffing requirements. The emergence of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) alone highlights the need to assess, evaluate and redefine the personnel requirements. We are in the end game of selecting the team to conduct the study effort and plan to have the study and analysis complete in less than a year.

In parallel, we need to watch the State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review process carefully. The direct relationship between the Embassy support staffing and our country team staffing means that the outcome of this review will affect our world-wide staffing requirements. My goal is that there will be sufficient State Department support staff to allow us to meet our mission requirements.

In summary, I look at it in four ways. First it's about the money. We will ensure we have the financial resources available to support our personnel costs. Second, it's about the people and the correct worldwide mix, which will be covered by the staffing review. The third and fourth elements are experience and training. I'll discuss the last two in a future blog.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Making a Difference at CWD

Friends, teammates and interested readers, this is the start of the Director’s Blog on behalf of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. I am Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa and I am the Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. My blog is designed to help you keep up-to-date about what’s happening throughout the security cooperation community. At the 100,000 foot perspective, it is an exciting time to be involved in security cooperation. From the highest levels of our government, there are numerous activities intended to increase our efficiency and effectiveness. These range from Interagency Strategic Reviews to ongoing Lean Six Sigma efforts within DSCA. One notable success was our effort to streamline and synchronize the way foreign military sales cases are written. Just over two years ago, we combined Army, Navy and Air Force billets to establish a Case Writing Division within the DSCA Operations Directorate. Located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the CWD has been the model of continuous process improvement, improving from an average 10 days to assemble and write a case down to two days for the same process. That’s an 80-percent reduction in processing times. Compare that to the time it takes to get the contract written on a new custom built home. This is just one of hundreds of good news stories throughout the agency. So here’s a call out to folks making a difference at CWD!