Story by Ryan Labadens, Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport
The Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Mississippi, is known as the home of the Atlantic Seabees, but the base has many different departments and units with a variety of missions. One of those missions the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville (FLCJ) Gulfport supports is the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Security Cooperation Programs Office (SCPO) International Sustainment Center.
FMS programs provide many benefits to the U.S. Navy and the nation, lowering procurement costs with increased economic order quantities, providing strategic benefits and strengthening alliances, and sustaining the industrial base and providing jobs.
Under the NAVAIR SCPO, the U.S. Government procures defense articles and services on behalf of the foreign customer, which has a contract with the U.S. government. Countries approved to participate in these programs pay for these goods and services with either their national funds or with funds provided through a variety of U.S. government assistance programs.
“Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programs are managed on a country-by-country basis, based upon the system that is being purchased by that country,” said Thomas Murphree, the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville (FLCJ) Gulfport Warehouse Manager.
Part of the many responsibilities of the FLCJ Gulfport personnel includes supporting NAVAIR SCPO FMS and Cooperative programs. NAVAIR SCPO manages these programs for more than 80 different countries, said Murphree, and 31 of those countries have items and equipment that are stored and shipped from the facilities onboard NCBC Gulfport. At any given time, FLCJ Gulfport personnel can perform anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 transactions a month involving shipping and receiving items and equipment, and the two warehouse facilities used here as part of the FMS and Cooperative programs store around $500 million worth of material in their warehouse facilities, at the time of this writing. According to a Defense News article (see reference at the end of this article), the U.S. State Department cleared more than $83.5 billion in FMS in fiscal year (FY) 2020 alone. From FY18 to FY20 NAVAIR had $26.4B in new cases with a current total of over $61B in open FMS cases, and the FLCJ is playing a critical role in accommodating this unprecedented growth.
The Navy IPO website states that approved weapons platforms, equipment, armament or combat systems that partner countries purchase through these programs include everything the customer needs to deploy, operate, maintain and employ that platform or system, taking into consideration customer needs such as hardware and software requirements, spare parts, repairs, engineering and logistics support, and publication material and training.
“When a country buys a weapons system [like a fighter jet], it comes with all kinds of kits and repair parts for everything that goes with that aircraft. The [case manager directs the material to come here], and we store them up until the time that owning country [through the case manager] calls them forward so they can be stored here for safe keeping until needed,” said Murphree in regards to the warehouses onboard NCBC Gulfport designated for storing and transferring items as part of the Foreign Military Sales program. “That’s pretty much what we do – we store it, and then when [the case manager calls] for it, we ship it wherever they want it shipped, and we try to do it in as timely and as cost-efficient a manner as possible.”
Murphree said that about a decade ago, the Navy had decided to transfer management of six warehouses from the U.S. Navy to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). In September 2020, management was transferred from DLA back to Navy operations and management as part of a streamlining and cost saving effort.
“That’s really the biggest change that happened recently. As far as personnel go and how we operate however, there really aren’t any major changes,” said Murphree.
He concluded by noting the overall benefits of these programs to the U.S. and its partner nations.
“The foreign military sales program is there to better enable our partner countries to integrate with the U.S. in a conflict or to better defend their own country, and part of that involves using our systems [namely various weapon platforms, armament or combat systems manufactured by the U.S.],” said Murphree. “So instead of those countries going through all the costly research and development to produce their own systems, they can buy them through the U.S. State Department through these programs.”