Strengthening Partners and Advocating for American Industry at the Paris Air Show

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The author consults with a senior U.S. Air Force Pilot as he tours the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show
Assistant Secretary Cooper consults with a senior U.S. Air Force Pilot as he tours the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show

Strengthening Partners and Advocating for American Industry at the Paris Air Show

Since its inauguration in 1909, the Paris Air Show grew to become the largest aerospace industry trade show in the world. With over 170,000 visitors, nearly 2,500 exhibitors, 140 aircraft on display, and over $140 billion worth of contracts signed during the event, this biennial event provides an invaluable opportunity for both military and civilian aircraft manufacturers to display and demonstrate their products to a vast audience of potential customers. This year, I had the opportunity to join a senior U.S. delegation for my first ever visit, to talk defense trade with senior civilian and military officials from countries around the globe, meet with industry executives, and to promote and advocate for the more than 270 U.S. companies on hand to exhibit the latest aerospace and defense technologies.

As Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, my bureau plays a central role in managing and maintaining security relationships with our allies and global partners and providing defense trade guidance to U.S. industry. Through our various offices, we provide oversight for government-to-government arms sales, regulate commercial defense trade, and guide security cooperation activities, all of which are vital tools of diplomacy and national security that also provide benefits in the form of jobs here at home.

While at the air show, meeting with representatives from partner nations all around the world provided timely opportunity to further those relationships in service of our national security priorities. When a country buys an advanced U.S. defense system through our Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) channels they are not simply buying a product; they are also investing in a partnership with the United States. These programs both reinforce our diplomatic relations and establish a long-term security relationship.

The complex and technical nature of advanced defense systems frequently requires constant collaboration and interaction between countries over the life of that system – decades in many cases. Often, the purchase of U.S. defense equipment is accompanied by training of partner forces by the U.S. military, which promotes strong working relationships between forces. Additionally, the acquisition of U.S. equipment makes it easier for foreign militaries to work jointly with the United States. This is especially important for countries that are part of collective defense agreements, such as our NATO Allies. Acquiring modern U.S. military equipment means that these Allies will have the capabilities necessary to uphold their treaty obligations in a manner that optimizes their interoperability to contribute to coalition operations to address shared security challenges.

U.S. Army personnel demonstrate the advanced features of the U.S. made attack helicopter.

Air shows like the one myself and other colleagues attended are an important platform for an industry critical to health of the U.S. economy. According to the Aerospace Industries Association, the U.S. aerospace and defense industry contributes almost a trillion dollars annually to our economy and supports over 2.5 million U.S. jobs in the extended industry supply chain, direct manufacturing of industry products, and in services related to the sale and manufacture of these products. The industry also generates a positive trade surplus of nearly $90 billion, which is the largest of any U.S. industry. The State Department uses events such as the Paris Air Show to actively support and advocate for American companies on a global stage.

Over the last fiscal year, U.S. Government-authorized arms exports rose by a total of 13 percent to $192.3 billion, adding thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy and sustaining many thousands more. These gains by U.S. defense companies have coincided with efforts by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and its interagency partners to comprehensively reform and modernize the arms transfer process.

Defense sales improve U.S. national security by encouraging our partners to take on a greater responsibility for our shared burden of defense. Partners who procure American weaponry are more capable of fighting alongside us and ultimately more capable of protecting themselves with fewer American boots on the ground. At the same time, arms transfers can help the U.S. military lower its own procurement costs, strengthen America’s manufacturing and defense-industrial base, and facilitate ally and partner efforts to reduce the risk of military operations causing civilian harm.

When we enable our allies and partners to more easily obtain appropriate American defense articles and services, and work with them to ensure equipment is used appropriately, we improve our national security in a way that best reflects American values. The United States is committed to the security and proper end-use of those systems it exports around the globe. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and the Department of Defense both conduct end-use monitoring of exported systems for this purpose.

Receptions during the Air Show provided great engagement opportunities with partners on defense modernization and advocate for security partners to “buy American.”

The Paris Air Show was an impressive display of human innovation yielding fruitful dialogues between representatives from the U.S. government, U.S. defense companies, and foreign partners. Robust defense trade and engagement not only benefits the American economy, it also enhances bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and its partners, furthering U.S. national security and enables new diplomatic avenues. I look forward to continuing to build on our strong relationship with American industry and with our global partners in service of U.S. national interests.

About the Author: R. Clarke Cooper is the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.


R. Clarke Cooper

Contributor bio

R. Clarke Cooper serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.