Guest Post by LTC Walter Richter
Foreign Area Officer
Former Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation

Don’t miss Lesson #1: It’s All About People 

As you immerse yourself in the many security cooperation issues in your country, you will find that both U.S. and host-nation counterparts will turn to you for information on issues that the country is facing or opportunities for greater cooperation or financial support.  Even more important than the many details you will know is the depth of your network and knowing whom to contact for assistance.  Having answers right away won’t build your credibility if they are wrong!

Know your legal requirements

Working as an ODC affords you a great deal of freedom in developing your program.  That being said, there are some non-negotiables pertaining to the job.  First, as you serve as that nexus of interagency cooperation and also meet with members, ensure that you are legally in the clear.  Your training at DISCS will cover much of this, but keep your CCMD’s legal advisor’s contacts available.  You are not a lawyer, and if you are even a little unsure about something; ask.

Know your reporting requirements

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In my experience, reporting requirements were not overwhelming, but they are critical.  Keep records of what you submit in order to be consistent, but not repetitive, in the many reports to your CCMD and your Embassy.  Some of these reports are congressionally mandated and you don’t want anyone from your Embassy or CCMD having to chase you to complete them.  Reporting for the End-Use Monitoring (EUM) program deserves special mention.  It is a mandatory, no-fail program that requires quarterly and annual reports.  Depending on your location, you may have dedicated personnel for this task, or it may be an additional duty.  When you arrive, make sure there are no questions on who is responsible for this.  Ask your counterparts at your CCMD for a review of your program and set a reminder to check on it.  It is a fairly straightforward program if you don’t neglect it.

Know your programs

During my three years as an ODC, I can’t say how many times that Security Assistance Programs changed their rules and names.  You will receive many requests on these from both the Embassy and your host-nation.  Educate yourself, but don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance.  Program managers at your CCMD and at the Department of State are more than willing to review proposals and take questions early in the process, rather than after a deadline has passed.

Be prepared to spend

I was lucky to have an extremely experienced training manager who always managed to have students prepared to accept end of year International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds other countries were unable to spend.  Additionally, expect that 10% or more of host-nation students you prepare for education and training in the United States will not be able to attend, due to language, family, health, or some other issue.  Work closely with host-nation personnel to identify potential personnel to fill in for personnel that are unable to complete schooling at the last minute, or simply to use unexpended funds that become available.

While IMET funding can only be used for education and training, Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds have much broader uses for training and education, as well as modernization.  In addition to your DSCA desk officer, get to know your DSCA Country Financial Director and request your FMF balances.  As FMF cases close-out each year, there is typically some funding remaining.  Checking at least twice a year will help you avoid carrying large balances of unobligated funds (which will only weaken future requests for financial assistance), and will allow you to use those funds for ongoing efforts.

Stay tuned to the GSF Blog for Part #3…

Questions?  Comments?  Contact LTC Richter at walter.richter@outlook.com.