Doing Business With Defense Security Cooperation Agency

General Info: DSCA<@VM>The CIO File: Mark Scher

Evamarie's notebook

I am hoping to do justice here to an important defense agency that, to me, is tough to describe.

CIO Scher gave me a great explanation of the agency in my interview with him. He said it best, I think: "Security cooperation [as in DSCA] is really a family of programs managed by DSCA, executed by the Army, Navy and Air Force, and funded by the State or Defense departments or by foreign country national funds. The largest of these programs is the Foreign Military Sales program, in which the U.S. government sells defense articles, services and training, to more than 100 friendly and allied countries and eligible international organizations such as NATO on a government-to-government basis. FMS involves about 2,500 sales per year with a total value of more than $12 billion per year. The international military education programs we manage train tens of thousands of military students per year."

DSCA's missions are varied, so in doing business with the agency, I would start by studying its Web site and getting a grasp of what DSCA is all about. CIO Scher also offered advice in his interview on contracting with DSCA. The agency is listed on FedBizOpps under "Other Defense Agencies" under the "DoD" heading.

DSCA executes and manages what are known as drawdowns, or transfers of available Defense Department inventory and resources to aid in unforeseen emergencies or needs. The president is authorized to do these drawdowns under the Foreign Assistance Act, and directed the Defense Department to use up to $65 million of articles and services to help the tsunami disaster relief effort in South Asia. DSCA's Office of Humanitarian Assistance and Mine Action is working with the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Combatant Commanders and other defense segments in this effort. Other recent natural disasters for which DSCA directed drawdowns were mudslides in Venezuela and floods in East Africa in 2000. For more on DSCA's role in the tsunami recovery, visit

Interesting little aside: All DSCA employees may be contacted directly via email using: How easy.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler

Courtesy of DSCA

Defense Security Cooperation Agency

2800 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-2800


Founded: 1971

Director: Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler

Deputy director: Richard Millies

Civilian employees: 133. Total number of employees is unavailable.

What it does: The Defense Security Cooperation Agency performs the Defense Department's security role in military assistance, international military training and foreign military sales to countries friendly to the United States.

The foreign military sales program works on a "no-profit, no-loss basis" by charging countries an administrative fee. Programs under military assistance ( include Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Financing and International Training.

The agency also manages other Defense Department programs, such as humanitarian efforts and strategic planning.

Number crunching:

Defense Department 2005: $401.7 billion

DSCA operation and maintenance 2005: $86.3 million

DSCA is funded by a percentage of what the agency collects on sales and is not fully funded through the federal budget.Full title: Chief information officer

Took the job: October 1998. He is the agency's first CIO.

Hometown: Has lived most of his life in metropolitan Washington.

Home now: Potomac, Md.

Hobbies: House, garden and automotive chores on the weekends. Lap swimming in the summertime. "Physical activity and readily completed tasks are a good antidote for my office life."

What is the last book you read, or what are you reading now? "I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't read a book in years. I spend my evenings working through my office inbox, and I read key sections of the newspaper thoroughly on a daily basis. On vacations, I catch up on IT trade publications."

Alma mater: Bachelor's in engineering science from the Johns Hopkins University, master's and doctorate degrees in applied mechanics from Stanford University. "Most of my career has focused on the cost and effectiveness of information systems, both for business systems and military command and control systems."

WT: What is the role of technology in DSCA's mission? It seems to me you would be dealing with highly secure communications and computing.

Scher: The name of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency often fools people into thinking that we deal primarily with personnel security. Actually, DSCA is part of the undersecretary of defense for policy, and primarily provides guidance for the execution of U.S. security cooperation programs approved by the State Department. We also implement several Defense Department international programs.

Consequently, the technical challenge is to build effective information systems to support the unique mission of our business. The biggest IT challenge is defining information system developments that measurably enhance the business and reduce costs. We started with aging, duplicative legacy systems; an IT investment budget that is small compared to the cost of a legacy replacement; and absence of sufficiently detailed business performance and productivity metrics. Like a commercial business, DSCA must cover all business and investment costs, to include major IT investments from its own revenue.

WT: Given what DSCA does, are your technology needs different or unique from the typical tech needs of an agency? What part do you play in "military assistance?"

Scher: "Military assistance" is an outdated term; we engage in security cooperation and provide security assistance. Our technology needs are those of a multinational business. Our needs boil down to unique business software development with an emphasis on retaining in-house analytic skills to translate pertinent business requirements and rules into software specifications, and to perform modest amounts of enhancements and testing of our systems. Over the past decade, we have been building gradually a single, large replacement system for some legacy functions.

WT: How has technology changed what your agency does or how it does it?

Scher: In the last 10 years, we began to use the Internet more to deliver information to our customers and to our overseas management personnel. Recently, we created a Web-based application to facilitate more effective end-use monitoring of defense articles provided to foreign countries and eligible international organizations.

WT: What do you look for in vendors with which you are thinking of doing business?

Scher: Like most other federal agencies, we are cost sensitive. So vendors should plan on how to deliver their skills and services at attractive prices. The DSCA contracting office is the first point of contact for any vendor.

WT: A year from now, where do you see the agency's technology capabilities?

Scher: I expect DSCA to be concluding its ongoing development and continuing maintenance activities with relatively little change, while still focusing on modernizing automation. Several years from now, I anticipate having our IT team working on automating business process changes that provide measurably better, faster and less-expensive service to the security cooperation community.

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