Heidi Grant, shown in this 2017 photo, has announced her resignation from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Heidi Grant, shown in this 2017 photo, has announced her resignation from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.

Head of Pentagon Foreign Arms Sales Division Stepping Down After 15 Months on the Job

Heidi Grant was the first civilian to lead the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The top Pentagon official overseeing foreign arms sales announced her resignation after just 15 months on the job.

The announcement was posted on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website after Grant spoke Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington. Earlier Tuesday, Grant said the U.S. needs to weigh whether blocking an arms sale to an ally would prompt that nation to buy from a “strategic competitor”—alluding to China and Russia, which she did not mention by name.

“We have to look at this and say, if we're not there, our strategic competition is going to fill the void,” she said. “And is that riskier than transferring our high-end technologies?”

Grant, a career civil servant who has spent the past decade working on foreign arms sales and technology transfer to allies, specifically called out the U.S. decision not to sell drones to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.

“Our policies of the time were, we're not going to transfer that technology. So guess what? Our strategic competitor transferred that technology, and have a significant footprint of training bases for unmanned ISR in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE,” Grant said. “It could have been us, we could be there, we could be training and advising, have that access.”

With the U.S. unwilling to sell drones in the Middle East, allies there instead bought from China

“Considering strategic competition was not a focus,” Grant said. “It was about building partner capability and capacity to get after global challenges.”

After taking control of the White House in January, the Biden administration froze a number of Trump administration-approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over the countries’ role in the Yemen civil war. In August, Reuters reported the Biden administration would consider human rights concerns when deciding whether to sell weapons to an ally.

In August 2020, Grant became the first civilian to lead the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which had previously been helmed by generals and admirals. As recently as last month, Grant was telling colleagues that being DSCA director was her “dream job,” according to an industry source.

While the White House and State Department make arms sales decisions, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency is in charge of administering and executing the sales. The director typically has a demanding travel schedule, meeting with allies and regularly attending arms and air shows all over the world.

“Grant had been considering this transition for some time and believed the moment was right after successfully leading DSCA to its full operational capability phase of organizational transformation on October 1,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “DSCA’s new organizational model will enable DSCA to operate more efficiently and continuously meet the emerging needs of its stakeholders in service of U.S. and partner national security objectives.”

Grant will remain director through Nov. 6. Jed Royal, her deputy, is expected to become acting director on Nov. 7.