The defense industry is praising the appointment of longtime Defense Department official Heidi Grant as the new director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, as Defense Secretary Mark Esper has changed the position from a three-star officer to a civilian role.
The Defense Department announced Grant as the new DSCA director on July 17. She is replacing Army Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, who had held the role since August 2017.
Grant had served as director of the Defense Technology Security Agency since January 2019. Before that, she had served as deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs for nearly nine years.
Grant is the first civilian to lead DSCA. While the State Department is ultimately responsible for approving arms transfers, DSCA manages the process of foreign military sales.
"The secretary converted the Director, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, billet to a career civilian to ensure greater continuity for this critical security cooperation mission," Pentagon spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Uriah Orland told Inside Defense. "This is a permanent change in the assignment."
The shift for the export agency comes as it has overseen a record level of arms transfers in recent years. At the same time, industry is agitating for the arms sale process to move more quickly.
Hawk Carlisle, president of the National Defense Industrial Association, endorsed the selection of Grant, pointing back to his time working with her on international engagements while he served as commander of Pacific Air Forces from 2012 to 2014.
In an interview with Inside Defense today, Carlisle said the appointment of a civilian like Grant to the DSCA director role will lend itself well to fostering long-term relationships with foreign nations.
"People come and go inside the military," Carlisle said. "She's got that longer-term tenure that can follow things through and make sure it happens."
In an email to Inside Defense, Aerospace Industries Association Assistant Vice President for International Affairs Dak Hardwick also praised Grant's selection.
"Heidi Grant has a deep understanding of both the process and purposes of security cooperation," Hardwick said today. "Her experience and established international relationships will serve her and our nation well."
In 2018, the Trump administration released a new conventional arms transfer policy aimed at boosting the U.S. defense industry. In turn, industry has advocated for streamlining the process and speeding up decisions on whether to move forward with an arms deal.
"Our potential adversaries out there in China and Russia, and even some of our friends and partners, their ability to work between industry in their country and foreign nations, they have less restrictions, they have less challenges in how they do it," Carlisle said during today's interview.
"I do think that there is a potential to continue to improve that capability with someone like Heidi at the helm of DSCA," he added.