The Defense Small Arms Advisory Council (DSAAC) was formed as a non-profit organization in 2004 to represent the interests of the defense-related small arms industry in the United States, its territories, and foreign countries. Its initial operating focus, and the issue that sparked formation of DSAAC, was to assure fair and open competition for members of the industry during a period in which it seemed that the Army was about to select a new service rifle without any form of requirement document or competition.
But even at that time the organization thought more broadly; and the stated objectives included maintaining awareness of congressional and executive branch activities related to the small arms acquisition process, collecting and disseminating trade information of interest and value to the industry and the public, and handling trade inquiries.
Because the voices of larger industries overwhelmed the broader small arms industry’s voice (a single naval vessel or aircraft can cost more than an entire year’s small arms procurements) and no industry organization was focused on small arms, members knew that an organization like DSAAC was needed to promote its issues before governmental, economic and business groups. Somebody needed to study pending legislative and acquisition matters to determine their direct and indirect implications to the industry and the public’s interest.
This required providing an effective means of promoting a helpful, supportive relationship between the industry and the public and to assist and advise government officials in accomplishing the requirements of the acquisition process.
The organization’s Board of Directors thus selected Major General Allen Youngman (RET) as the DSAAC’s Executive Director. MG Youngman maintains a strong presence in the Nation’s Capitol. DSAAC’s President, Mark Westrom of ArmaLite, Inc. describes MG Youngman as “without a doubt the sharpest General Officer I’ve had the pleasure to work with.”
The initial competition matter has evolved into current Army efforts to test a wide variety of small arms to be submitted for test and evaluation.
What nobody counted on was the organization being drawn into the now-famed UN Arms Trade Treaty process (the ATT), and a lesser-known UN project called the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS). The ATT first, then the ISACS were advancing without input from the Small Arms Industry. While civil rights matters were the purview of the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, and others, the more technical matters related to the ATT and ISACS processes appeared ill-understood and unaddressed.
DSAAC initially attended ATT conferences, sponsored by the World Forum on the Future of Shooting sports (WFSA) as early as 1997, with MG Youngman participating. DSAAC is currently applying for Non Governmental Organization status similar to that of the NRA, WFSA, and IANSA.
Considerable rumor surrounds the ATT. Among the rumors are that the Secretary of State has signed the ATT. None of these rumors is true. The ATT doesn’t exist even in draft form. It is noteworthy however, that the process is heavily attended by organizations that are to say the least unsympathetic with the industry and firearms and their owners, and that some of these organizations are strongly funded and focused on loading the ATT down with their wishes. Every ATT conference is heavily attended by Civil Society organizations that supply copious quantities of expensive documents, many in multiple languages.
UN leadership, including leadership of the ATT process, have stated clearly that the ATT is intended to address only the international transfer of military small arms only. The current U.S. Administration’s position is similar to that of the previous administration: that the ATT is to relate to military armaments only, minus ammunition, and that the treaty must be based on consensus (unanimity) and equal treatment of all signatories. These are high challenges for the UN. At the same time, other nations are calling for privately held arms to be included, and for the treaty to go into effect with as little as 30 of the UN member states as signatories.
After a decade of preparatory meetings, a month long drafting phase is schedule to take place in July of 2012. This process will surely be surrounded by a host of Civil Society organizations, generally unsympathetic to the American positions that will try to embellish the ATT with issues beyond military arms that will threaten its acceptance. ATT will be in attendance focused on the military aspects of the ATT.
While attending what DSAAC believed was a 2009 Geneva conference on the ATT, DSAAC became aware of United Nations activity that is in some ways similar to the ATT: the ISACS.
ISACS is to consist of somewhat less than 30 modules covering a wide range of topics with topics ranging from industrial to civil rights in nature. They include such matters as End Use Certificates, Border Controls, Collection (of weapons), and Gender and Small Arms and Light Weapons. Some of these topics seem to step on the toes of the UN staff preparing the ATT. Originally scheduled for completion in 2011, the ISACS is stretching into 2012.
Drafting of the modules is being performed by consultants hired by the UN, and reviewed by an “Expert’s Reference Group.” ArmaLite’s Mark Westrom serves on the Expert’s Reference Group for DSAAC.
Like the UN and the WFSA before, DSAAC has applied for Non-Governmental Organization status at the UN. This is a multi-year process and is not expected to be completed for several years. Without such status, an organization normally has no voice at the UN. DSAAC has been fortunate to have established itself on a practical basis and expects to continue its efforts.
Since initiation of the UN matters, some DSAAC members became concerned again of problems in competition: Army efforts to bring small arms production “in house” at the government arsenals.
Meetings with government officials reveals Army intent to maintain internal capacity to produce small arms components in case of emergency, and that about 10% internal production of DOD requirements are desired. Industry concerns, of course, are that as overall DOD procurements turn downward the Army will yield to pressures to focus a greater portion of DOD contracts to the higher-cost arsenals. The situation remains under observation.
Membership of the organization is highly focused, with primary (active) members of small arms companies focused on firearms, their accessories and components for arms of 40mm or smaller and designed or intended primarily for sale to or use by the Department of Defense or other government agencies. Manufactures of firearm-related items (components, accessories, optics, kit, etc.), ammunition, and services form a second level of members: Associate Members.
The organization’s leadership consists of officers and board members from a variety of industry members both large and small, including FNMI, Colt’s Defense, Lewis Machine and Tool, and ArmaLite.
As conditions continue to evolve, DSAAC expects that its focus will continue to shift to meet the challenges facing the industry.