The Foreign Comparative Testing Program
Camacho, Marlon, Air & Space Power Journal
NO DOUBT US military personnel deployed overseas in operations such as Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom sometimes notice their coalition partners using a particularly effective piece of equipment during engagements with the enemy. Naturally they probably wonder whether their service has that same device and, if not, how soon the Department of Defense (DOD) could obtain it. In actuality, US war fighters can rapidly (in as little as six months) get their hands on superior foreign equipment and technology they observe while serving in friendly countries around the world. We can do just that by means of the Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) Program managed by the Comparative Testing Office in the Office of the Under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.1 From bullets to aircraft-loading equipment to nanotechnology, the program provides funding for test articles and the testing and evaluation of foreign equipment. Additionally, since the Office of the secretary of Defense (OSD) and Congress approve the projects, their procurement funding is virtually locked in. Candidate projects are submitted annually to the OSD by June, and that office normally releases funding by mid-October. The FCT Program saves time, money, and effort compared to the lengthy traditional acquisition cycle.
Since its inception in 1980, the FCT Program has funded over 528 projects with $932 million, resulting in procurements in excess of $6.7 billion in fiscal year 2005 constant-year dollars. Over the past 20 years, the Air Force has received $55 million, resulting in procurements in excess of $1 billion. Through the program, all services and US Special Operations Command have the opportunity to leverage our allies' technologies and quickly provide their war fighters with much-needed equipment. Each service has a program office dedicated to supporting and strengthening the FCT Program, an effort that attracts the interest of war fighters and foreign vendors alike. Representatives from each of the services attend all major international air shows as well as conduct industry tours of various nations, looking for equipment that could satisfy the needs of their personnel.
Successful FCT projects arise from worldclass foreign-defense items produced by allied and other friendly countries, strong US user advocacy and support, a valid operational requirement, and solid procurement potential. …