On October 1, Embassy Vientiane completed the first ever Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) with its delivery of nine new field ambulances to the country’s Ministry of National Defense (MND). The ambulances will enable Lao MND to conduct safer unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance and rural disaster response missions. This important milestone will draw the U.S.-Lao PDR bilateral relationship closer and marks new ways in which both countries can work together in support of mutual interests.
The ambulance program was developed under the auspices of the U.S.-Lao PDR Bilateral Defense Dialogue, part of the U.S.-Laos Comprehensive Partnership, through discussions that took sustainability, follow-on support, and requirements unique to Lao PDR into consideration. The FMF grant, valued at approximately $588,000, will include successive years of spare parts, maintenance training, and support to facilitate modern logistics and maintenance management practices. The vehicles are configured to conduct operations in Lao PDR’s rugged terrain, and are equipped with four-wheel drive, a winch, and a snorkeling system, which will enable the vehicles to drive through high water areas.
U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR Peter Haymond and Deputy Minister of Defense Major General Aesamay Leuangvanxay presided over the handover ceremony in Vientiane. Ambassador Haymond noted the strong bilateral cooperation that led to the successful delivery: “Our two militaries worked together to identify additional equipment needed for the Lao People’s Army’s medical and humanitarian aid and disaster response operations. The result of that collaboration is what brings us here today. We are proud that these vehicles will help the Lao PDR respond to future disasters, whatever they may be, to help the Lao people.”
The ambulances represent a good example of the “total package approach” to U.S. security cooperation programs. Unlike many other countries, the United States aims to not only provide equipment, but also well-trained personnel, equipment that is best suited for the recipient country context and operating environment, and follow-on support and training to ensure long-term usefulness. This approach carefully considers our partners’ ability to independently sustain platforms in the long-term and avoids equipment that will unduly burden their budgetary resources. Sustainable investment in our partners is one of our key priorities, and a major tenet of a free and open international order.
The execution of the first successful FMF program in Lao PDR will create new opportunities for cooperation and trust-building. The United States looks forward to developing a stronger partnership with Lao PDR in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Read U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR Peter M. Haymond’s recent DipNote on how the U.S. is supporting local efforts to clear UXO here.
About the Author: Bryan Walsh serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Security Assistance at the U.S. Department of State.