MS ORTAGUS: Everybody already knows Clarke Cooper. He’s done these before, and he is going to read out his trip. He just got back from the Middle East. Why don’t you fire away?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Okay. All right. Good to be home. As Morgan mentioned, I just came back from the Levant and the Gulf. Starting in Israel, I took time with counterparts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense focused, of course, on our security cooperation and our bilateral relationship as well as their posture in the region. As many of you know, Israel is a top recipient of our foreign military financing throughout the world, and we were certainly looking at the number of requirements that they need to meet their self-defense as well as some of the requirements that they take lead on in the region.
Speaking of the region, then moving to the Gulf, went to the Dubai Air Show. There we had a significant – an American presence not only from an official capacity but also an industry capacity. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary Lord for Acquisition and Sustainment over at Department of Defense, was head of delegation one day. I then took a turn to be head of delegation the next day. A very robust presence on behalf of U.S. interests and U.S. industry there, certainly a significant amount of time spent with the Emiratis on our security cooperation relationship from a bilateral sense, but as with any of these air shows provided opportunity to touch base and hit a number of other bilateral meetings with chiefs of defense, service chiefs, and other ministry officials from other partners who were present at the air show. As it’s often referred to colloquially, a lot of bilateral speed-dating took place at the air show amongst partners.
With all of that, I would say an overarching theme that was particularly present at the air show but not absent in Israel was the necessity to highlight why the United States remains the partner of choice when it comes to security cooperation, security assistance, and certainly defense trade acquisitions. Why? Well, not only are we long and stalwart as a partner when it comes to working together, it does come down to quality, it does come down to accountability, and it does come down to transparency in our processes as far as what can be acquired and what we expect of a partner. Why am I mentioning that? It’s because it’s certainly been a competitive space and becoming a more competitive space when we’re looking at what can be made available to partners to meet their defense requirements.
We certainly want to make sure that all of our partners understand what risks they may incur if they look elsewhere, particularly to near-peer adversaries that may be offering something that is of a subpar nature or may expose them to risk to exploitation or theft of their defense technology. We don’t want to put to risk our defense technology, and we don’t want our partners put at risk either.
The other thing about that, a consideration, is interoperability. And a number of states, if they’re not already in an organization or alliance, like say NATO, are aspirant to that; a number of states that are seeking to be working not just with the U.S. but with other partners or allies that meet NATO standard or requirement. I mention that because if there’s a consideration of acquiring a Russian or a Chinese platform munition or materiel, that too would put at risk the capability to be interoperable not only with the United States but with other partners and other allied states.
So those were overarching – I would say the overarching theme, again, was the interoperability not just with us but with states that are at a particular standard; mitigating risk to either exploitation, theft, or actually risk of non-operability from what they call subpar or riskier acquisitions; and then a host of a number of what I would say individual bilateral issues that we’ll be working through with particular partners.