Strategic drift in military-to-military relationships and its effect on U.S. foreign policy

Hardwick, Clay Andrew
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The United States has different methods by which it leverages its influence on allies throughout the world. Military-to-military partnerships constitute one of the most effective methods, particularly when the U.S. seeks to influence developing nations or ones that are in the midst of difficult political transitions. However, recent events demonstrate that these mil-to-mil partnerships are not as effective as they should be. This paper seeks to examine one aspect of the mil-to-mil partnership, namely sales of U.S. military equipment through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and the complementary Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, through which the United States provides the funding to finance said purchases. This paper argues that the United States has continually "moved the goalposts" in justifying its FMF outlays and FMS authorizations, to the effect that the United States is dependent on the continuation of the very programs that are designed to be little more than tools that allow the foreign policy establishment to influence its partners. This "strategic drift" in the mil-to-mil relationship as evidenced through the FMS/FMF program is examined in detail in Egypt, with a focus on events that have transpired since longtime President Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February 2011. The paper seeks to demonstrate that when FMS/FMF is tied to external agreements upon which the United States is dependent - whether diplomatic or military - it creates an incentive for planners in both the Departments of Defense and State to resort to self-justifying analyses bearing little resemblance to the original purpose of the FMS/FMF agreements or to the United States' legitimate national interest in a given region. Large scale reforms of the architecture of security assistance, both political and administrative, are unlikely to occur for a variety of reasons that are touched upon in the paper. By looking at the historical, political, and military aspects of security assistance more broadly, the paper argues that if the United States wants to achieve clarity on whether its security assistance programs truly serve the United States' best interests, it will need to do so at lower levels in the relative implementing agencies.