Manufacturers can produce non-strategic items for the militaries of foreign governments, but just like any other business venture outside the United States, it takes patience and education. “Every country operates differently,” says Ron Houle of DHS Systems LLC, based in Tanner, Ala. “Like our military, they can move very, very slowly at times.” The first step is identifying countries that might have a need for products and the discretionary budget to purchase them. DHS also has in-country representatives to help navigate the intricacies of their particular ministries of defense. “But at the end of the day, you learn to be patient and do a lot of homework to identify those spots that have the greatest potential,” Houle says.
Will Gay of Diamond Brand Mfg., Fletcher, N.C., notes that most foreign militaries do not purchase product at the levels seen under the U.S. Department of Defense. “It can certainly be a viable option and good business during slow times, but that requires establishing and growing the relationships with these militaries and governments over time,” he says.
At First Line Technology LLC, Chantilly, Va., one major concern is the sale of military-controlled items overseas. The company makes products regulated by ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and CCL (the Commerce Control List) . “On top of regular customs and international regulations, ITAR and CCL add another layer of approvals to go through to sell to international customers,” says First Line president Amit Kapoor. “Also, our international customers have to be savvy enough to understand ITAR and CCL to be able to do business with you.”