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DOD to take greater role in bankrolling foreign militaries

Changes passed in the 2006 Defense Authorization Act allows the Pentagon, rather than the State Department, to take a greater role in foreign military financing, including security assistance programs, training and equipment sales.

The change, Pentagon officials said, would ease the flow of money and resources to the places it’s needed most.

Foreign military financing allows the U.S. government to give or loan money to allies for military articles, services and training to help them bolster their defense against mutual threats including terrorism, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the agency that helps manage the program.

In the Pacific and Asia, the largest recipients are the countries with the strongest alliances to the U.S. military, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

But the program has armed other, less-friendly countries in their fight against terrorism, State Department officials have said, including the Philippines and, since November, Indonesia.

In both countries, foreign military financing programs were interrupted for about a decade: reduced in the Philippines following the closure of U.S. bases there, and halted completely in Indonesia after reports of widespread human-rights abuses were reported in the late 1990s.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the war on terror, both nations have supported U.S. actions worldwide. The improvement in relations has evolved into the resumption of military financing.

In the Philippines, for example, in addition to Pentagon- and Pacific Command-sponsored training such as the annual exercise Balikatan, the U.S. State Department has helped rebuild the country’s military by funding a series of counterterrorism training modules led by U.S. forces, officials at the embassy in Manila have said.

In Indonesia, similar training now is possible since the State Department resumed Foreign Military Financing in November and the U.S. government lifted an arms embargo this month.

Although resuming that relationship can help fight mutual foes, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stated in November it is a departure from the one of the tenets of the program: that U.S. funding will not support countries with human-rights abuses or that do not promote democratic values.

“It is in the national security interests of the United States to waive conditionality pertaining to Foreign Military Financing and defense exports to Indonesia.… The decision will allow the United States to resume selected areas of military assistance for Indonesia,” he stated in a written release.

“The U.S. remains committed to pressing for accountability for past human rights abuses, and U.S. assistance will continue to be guided by Indonesia’s progress on democratic reform and accountability.”


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