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Interview With Rear Adm. Jim Shannon: International Programs Key to Security Cooperation

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for International Programs


(Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (

Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, USN (Ret): Tell me about your mission, and what you have – your team – in order to execute that mission?

Rear Adm. Jim Shannon: It’s important to understand what your authorities are in any job you come into. You just can’t look at a title and determine what your job or authority is. In this case, there are Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) instructions; there’s law; and then there’s federal government regulations on how to do our job. And they all imply certain levels of authority to the military departments – Army, Navy, and Air Force. And then the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has a separate role, but altogether, we work towards a national solution, a single narrative. So when I came to this job, the big joke was—and like a lot of jokes there’s some truth, but also some non-truths which are almost hurtful – was being told, “Hey, you’re gonna be an arms dealer for the Navy.” And that is a hurtful joke because it is furthest from the truth.

The overarching goal is to find a way to satisfy both parties to get us to a position where we agree on the level of cooperation, that it’s a win-win situation for both countries, for both navies.

The overarching role or strategy that we fall under for the nation is called Security Cooperation. Two very strong words in their own right – security, which is the responsibility of every nation to provide security to their citizens, and cooperation which is something we all learned from the days we played in the sandboxes together – learn how to work together and cooperate. When you bring those two words together, that is the overarching role of what I do. But then within that, you get into the instructions. There’s the Arms Export Control Act, which is law. There’s the International Trades and Arms Regulations which is a policy in governance from the federal government. And then there’s SECNAV departmental instructions. They really give me, by name, my job responsibility, and provide me my authority within the Navy. So within the Navy, my main job is protecting the intellectual property of the technology that we developed for our Navy programs – that includes the Marine Corps. These are Department of Navy Programs, for both the Navy and Marine Corps, across all domains – air, surface, subsurface, land, cyber, and space, everywhere, where the U.S. Navy or the Department of the Navy is the lead agent. As the person responsible for this technology’s security, I obviously have a role where I determine “who do we share that information with and how do we disclose that information.” And the way I exercise that is in accordance with the laws, the Arms Export Control Act. I have to follow the law to do my job, but my job is given to me by the Secretary of the Navy who gives me the authority on behalf of the entire Navy to be that foreign disclosure officer, if you will, which I delegate out to various fleet activities, depending on the nature of the business and what we’re doing. But there’s a lot of cases that are unique, and I would say the preponderance of our job, or my job, is going through and understanding what our foreign partners want and how we can support them. The overarching goal is to find a way to satisfy both parties to get us to a position where we agree on the level of cooperation, that it’s a win-win situation for both countries, for both navies. In that job, I manage that, I coordinate that, I facilitate it, and I become the nexus of fleet commanders in the Pentagon, the system commands, and the PEOs, on anything that’s related to international relationships and technology sharing.

pakistan frigate

The U.S. and Pakistan national anthems are played during the decommissioning ceremony of the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) at Naval Station Mayport. During the ceremony, McInerney was commissioned into the Pakistan navy as PNS Alamgir (F 260). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr.


How do you execute that mission?

My title is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN) for International Programs. We fall under Mr. Sean Stackley, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN RDA). We have such a large DASN staff that we really don’t fit inside the Pentagon, so we function as a field activity to ASN RDA. We have a staff of a little bit over two hundred people. We average around 210 people a year – sometimes it goes up a little bit, sometimes it goes down – but that’s roughly 45 uniformed personnel, a majority of them officers. We have about 125 government civilians of various different backgrounds from financial management to policy makers, export control analysts, and country analysts. We also have some seated contractors here which make up the difference that gets us to 210. Ms. Anne Sandel is the executive director and she leads the organization on a daily basis. We’re organized, in a way, like a ship. Instead of “departments,” we have “directorates.” My technology director is sort of like the engineering department head. That directorate looks at export policy and supports all export licenses that the Department of the Navy has to weigh in on for the Department of State to make a decision. That directorate does all the cooperative agreements, information exchange agreements, data exchange agreements, and memorandums of understanding, which are almost treaty-like written documents between us and various countries on how we share developmental items that are being worked by our warfare centers, and their equivalent in their respective country. And in that role we work very closely with the Office of Naval Research. For everything ONR does with their international partners, we work with them to get that permission to do it. This directorate also manages technology analysis to make sure we protect the intellectual property. That all falls under that one directorate, and that directorate’s actually so important it’s led by a senior executive, Mr. Steve Bowdren, who sits on the National Disclosure Policy Panel representing the Department of the Navy on things even outside the U.S. Navy, but representing the Navy’s equities. The next directorate, which is probably the largest directorate, is our Country Support Analysis Directorate. They’re our country experts. We have representatives for every country that we do business with, and we do business with every country with the exception of Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea. For every other country in the world, we have somebody that could work with them. They are the people who reach back to the specific countries and the embassies on developing relationships and finding out what specific countries have. So they’re looking out that way. They’re very much like the operations department, tracking everything going on and scheduling things. The next department or directorate is the Plans and Programs Integration Directorate, which is very much like the combat system or weapons directorate. So where IPO 2, the Country Analysis team, looks out to the countries, the next directorate – IPO 3 –looks out across the system commands, the PEOs, all the OPNAV staffs in the Pentagon, the fleet staffs, and most importantly with private industry. So this directorate is not reaching to the foreign side of our customer base, they’re reaching to the U.S. side of our customer base.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...