Thank you, Tom, for your warm welcome, and to the Society for International Affairs (SIA) for inviting me to speak with you all today. SIA has long been an important stakeholder and a critical contributor to America’s national security. You are not just helping us defend the United States, you are an integral part of this Administration’s effort to strengthen and revitalize our relationships around the world.
For those of you I haven’t met yet, my name is Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, or the “PM” Bureau. At its core, the mission of my Bureau is to drive global security policy, integrate diplomacy and defense, and build strong security partnerships. We are also the primary Bureau in the State Department providing security assistance to Ukraine and Taiwan.
I’m going to start today with the big picture and then come down to the intersection of our work. We are living in a moment of tectonic change, with a rapid increase in the size, scope, and scale of security assistance driven by these evolving threats. Our partnership with industry is vital to meet this moment, keep our country safe, and safeguard our national security.
I will discuss the global picture, looking at the security threats posed by Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine and the rise of the PRC. Then, I want to talk about how we can work together to meet these challenges by improving production timelines, clarifying the rules governing defense trade, protecting our military technologies, and ensuring these weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.
The Global Picture
Just a look at today’s headlines shows that we are certainly living in interesting times — what some have called an inflection point in history. We have four nations that pose acute, present, and long-term threats. The PRC is our pacing challenge, as it is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the power to do it. In Europe, we must contend with Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Iran, a sponsor of terrorism, is pursuing its own nuclear capabilities. Finally, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has conducted six nuclear tests. In short, we face an increasingly complex security environment.
One of the most important advantages the United States has is our vast network of allies and partners who share our vision of a free, open, and democratic world. The work my Bureau does, building these security partnerships, is critical for making this happen, but we cannot do it without you.
Without a doubt, one of the most pressing security challenges facing our world today is Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine — the first full-fledged land war in Europe since World War II. Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war has led to widespread devastation and has destabilized the global economy. And finally, Putin’s aggression has not just threatened the democratic aspirations of Ukraine – it has cast a long shadow across all the former Soviet republics that seek to chart their own futures, and emboldened other aggressors who might seek to take territory by force.
Security assistance to Ukraine has been at the center of our government’s response, and our vision of security assistance consists of balancing multiple priorities:
First and foremost, providing direct support to Ukraine so that they can defend themselves. Since Russia escalated their invasion in February 2022, we have provided over $18.3 billion in military assistance, using Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDAs) on 25 separate occasions to transfer DOD stock directly to the Ukrainian military; $2.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Ukraine and NATO’s Eastern Flank; and the rapid processing of Third-Party Transfers to support the global effort of more than 40 nations to provide vital security assistance to Ukraine. Because of our steadfast and unwavering commitment, as well as the grit and persistence of the Ukrainian people, Ukraine has been able to beat back Russia’s invasion. And we will provide Ukraine with the capabilities they need until this war is won.
We will continue our commitment to European peace and stability by aiding Allies and partners as they meet their own increased defense requirements in the face of Russian aggression.
Beyond winning the war in Ukraine, we are helping to ensure Russia’s unprovoked invasion results in strategic failure for Russia by disrupting its defense trade relationships.
Finally, in support of these objectives, we seek to operationalize the $8 billion in FMF loan authority and the loan guarantees Congress recently authorized for Ukraine and NATO. FMF funding is a critical tool for ensuring our national security while ensuring we have a resilient defense industrial base.
The Indo-Pacific and the PRC
While our determined response to the war in Ukraine represents perhaps the most ambitious security assistance agenda in decades, our national security challenges do not end there. We continue to see evolving threats in the Indo-Pacific, including with the rise of the PRC. As the Secretary of State has said, “We’ll compete with confidence, cooperate where we can, and contest where we must.”
This is of critical importance because, as our National Security Strategy makes very clear, America’s future security and prosperity is going to depend on what happens in the Indo-Pacific. The region is home to more than half of the world’s people, nearly two-thirds of the global economy, and seven of the top 15 U.S. export markets. Every defining issue of the 21st century runs through the region. As an Indo-Pacific nation, the United States has a vital interest in ensuring this region is free and open. At the same time, we recognize that the Indo-Pacific is a region of increasingly intense geostrategic competition.
To start, we will work to maintain a credible military that deters aggression by maintaining a balance of power. We will do this by helping our allies and partners defend themselves. This represents not just an investment in regional peace and security, but the regional stability that has allowed the Indo-Pacific to become a hub of economic prosperity and commerce. The future of the global economy depends on it.
For decades, we have worked to strengthen our security commitments with key allies like Japan and the Republic of Korea. Our unwavering commitment to these countries has helped them bolster their self-defense capabilities. We will continue to modernize these alliances to meet the evolving threats facing the region.
We will diligently work to enhance security cooperation with other treaty allies such as Thailand, Australia, and the Philippines, while building ever-closer links with newer partners such as Vietnam and Indonesia and more established defense partners like India.
Moreover, we will continue to work hand-in-glove with Taiwan to strengthen their defense and deterrence through an asymmetric defense strategy. Our provision of defensive weaponry is essential for Taiwan’s security. We have already authorized over $18 billion in military hardware in the past five years, and we will continue working with you in the defense industry to support Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities and preserve peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
In addition, in 2021 the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia launched AUKUS to deepen our engagement and to signal our joint commitment to ensuring security in the region.
Putting these pieces together, our security assistance efforts have been an important anchor for peace and stability, and we will reinforce and strengthen these commitments in the years ahead.
The Role of Industry
Now let me turn to how this impacts each of you. We are staring down a rapidly evolving security environment, with a tectonic change in the size and scope of security assistance – military budgets are rising around the world to meet these defense needs. We need to work together with you, in industry, to meet these rapidly increasing needs and strengthen our national security. That starts with improving production timelines, but it also includes clarifying the rules and processes governing defense trade and how our allies and partners use the military tools we give them.
After all, it is not enough to arm Ukraine if it means leaving our European partners empty-handed. It is not enough to support Taiwan’s asymmetric defense strategy if the weapons take years to arrive. Our security assistance to Ukraine has increased the demand signal for DOD procurement. We are working hard to quantify this demand signal and get foreign requests on contract. But we need to build more and build faster. That is where you come in.
Speeding up production timelines
Government and industry need to work together to shorten delivery times for critical military systems and equipment. As most of you know, even before the war in Ukraine, our allies and partners have complained about long production timelines for military hardware. Rapidly increasing demand has only aggravated these issues. Our current production cycles are based on peacetime requirements, but we are no longer in a peacetime procurement scenario. This doesn’t just undermine our national defense – it also weakens our competitiveness.
For our part, the U.S. government recognizes that the timelines we are providing our partners do not meet their needs. The National Security Council has led interagency discussions to examine this issue and streamline our own internal processes.
The supply chain shortages that emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare some of the potential threats of economic interdependence, and they did not spare the U.S. government. Despite these ongoing issues, the DDTC License Office has managed to maintain a processing timeline throughout the pandemic of 48 days, showcasing its commitment and persistence in the face of adversity. Since the onset of the pandemic, they have worked hard on many new and continuing initiatives.
Earlier this year, for example, DDTC launched a pilot program for a new type of export authorization – the Open General License, or OGL, for Australia and the U.K. This limited program expands the opportunities for exporting unclassified defense articles. I encourage you to review these licenses on the DDTC website.
And on the Foreign Military Sales side, we are working with our partners in DOD to streamline the process of selling military equipment, including how we can shorten the technology security and foreign disclosure process, while still adhering to the legal obligations we have under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).
Expanding defense trade while protecting trade secrets
To meet our national security objectives, it is imperative that we expand opportunities for our defense industry to cooperate with our closest allies and partners while also protecting our most advanced technologies.
Beyond expanding security assistance, we are working to simplify the regulatory framework governing defense trade. By simplifying the rules, we can support trade by clarifying compliance. This is critical for our national security – after all, we are safer when our allies and partners can defend themselves. We are working hard to get the job done, and we need your input to make this happen.
While we continue to update the regulatory framework for arms sales, we remain committed to protecting our most sensitive technologies – your competitive advantage. We have continued to modernize these rules to protect and safeguard these technologies, including through export controls, international arms control agreements, and end-use monitoring.
In addition, we are modernizing the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. We have implemented several country policy changes. We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners through our bilateral and international engagements to protect U.S. technology – and your intellectual property. By updating these rules, we not only strengthen our national security, but we also help you by preserving the competitive advantage of our defense industry. We need to work together to maintain that competitive edge.
We also rely on civil and criminal enforcement to protect our nation’s sensitive technologies. We recommend that all parties involved in defense trade establish and maintain an International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance program to meet compliance obligations and identify potential risk areas. And if violations occur, we encourage firms to disclose violations to us. With your cooperation at the front end, it’s much easier to protect our national security and mitigate these threats.
In addition to civil enforcement, the State Department coordinates closely with the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s offices around the country to support criminal prosecutions when there are criminal violations of the Arms Export Control Act and ITAR. With your help, we can safeguard these sensitive technologies.
End-use monitoring (EUM)
We are also working diligently to ensure effective end-use monitoring. While we have launched a robust response to help Ukraine defend itself in the face of the Russian invasion, we have also sought to accompany our security cooperation with accountability. Our recent rollout of the Ukrainian arms counter-diversion plan on October 27 represents one of our most significant efforts yet to track these weapons, especially man-portable air defense systems and anti-tank weapons.
For years, we have employed end-use checks to verify foreign parties. We support multiple programs to perform site visits and end-use checks. We monitor Direct Commercial Sales through the State Department program Blue Lantern, while Foreign Military Sales and government-to-government transfers are processed through the Defense Department program Golden Sentry. We also rely heavily on our Embassy personnel, including our Security Cooperation Offices (SCO) to conduct site checks. These protections mitigate risks while also allowing us to effectively collaborate with our allies and partners.
Time and again, what helps set America apart is not just its commitment to freedom and democracy, but our close cooperation with our allies and partners who share our vision of a free, open, and peaceful world. You help us strengthen these partnerships and make this security cooperation possible. In this moment of rapidly increasing defense needs, now more than ever, we need your help to meet the mission of integrating diplomacy and defense while delivering innovation. SIA is an indispensable partner in making this happen, and I thank you for your partnership. I am looking forward to continuing the conversation.