USSABC Hosts New U.S. Military Attaché

On January 24, 2017, the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council (USSABC) held a defense and security luncheon in Saudi Arabia.  The event featured Alex Barrasso, the new Political and Military Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh.  Approximately 60 business executives attended the luncheon.

Mr. Barrasso spoke at length regarding upcoming changes to Saudi Arabia’s defense industry. Vision 2030 includes ambitious plans to promote local manufacturing in the sector, and it promises to include an array of opportunities for foreign firms.  The 2017 Saudi budget allotted at least $50.9 billion for military and security services.  Mr. Barrasso noted that defense contractors will be successful by showing commitment to Saudi Arabia through joint ventures, technology transfers, and local manufacturing and training. 

In order to compete in the Saudi market through 2030, Mr. Barrasso noted specific challenges and areas for improvement from U.S. firms.  Under Vision 2030, the shift to 50 percent local military equipment manufacturing from present levels of 2 percent represents a significant rise that will depend on business deals with foreign defense firms.  American companies must make a stronger effort to fulfill local requirements in order to remain competitive.  The development of human capital and manufacturing capabilities are critical components for foreign firms seeking to earn contracts in the Kingdom.  Higher-value equipment is a priority, and Saudi Arabia has started manufacturing Ukrainian Antinov aircraft in accordance with the Vision.  This plan will rely on entities such as the Military Industries Corporation (MIC), which oversees major facets of the development of the local defense industry.  Saudi Arabia is currently the world’s third largest defense and security spender, and it is expected to increase imports over the coming decade. 

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