Expediting Defense Export Approvals, with a Customer-Focused Approach

Shock, grief, fear, and anger: The 9/11 attacks inflicted a devastating emotional toll on everyone around the globe. The U.S. Government responded with swiftness and ingenuity, deploying measures to undertake numerous military operations intended to eliminate threats and enhance regional stability. There was also large-scale enlistment in the military for overseas support of the counterinsurgency operations globally. 

As such, the U.S. Government placed heavy reliance on security cooperation and defense exports to bolster the military capability of allies and partners.  However, the U.S.’s Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) placed stringent controls on the export of military technologies from the U.S. Though the need for rigorous export controls had never been greater, the U.S. Government and the U.S. Defense Industry were confronted with the complex task of balancing shared military capability with allies and partners while protecting the crown-jewels of military technology from global proliferation and exploitation. 

Navigating this share-and-protect balance to enable U.S. allies to effectively and responsibly fight alongside U.S. Warfighters was the bedrock for Defense Trade Solutions (DTS).

Sixteen years later, Steve Casazza and his dad were having a casual discussion when the seed of DTS was planted. “I was doing independent consulting to help companies with their defense exports strategies when my dad encouraged me to build a business around my passion in defense trade. As an entrepreneur heading a multi-million-dollar software implementation firm himself, he allowed me to leverage his company’s infrastructure to scale my venture in 2017,” says Casazza.

Founded as a subsidiary under Casazza Sr.’s company, DTS caters to aerospace & defense businesses lacking the bandwidth or expertise to navigate defense exports requirements. “We help customers who are exhausted from day-to-day friction, export regulations, and lengthy approval timelines that impede their growth. We effectively navigate their defense export requirements at the speed of business for our customers. Our approach is business-focused, but also aligns U.S. defense industry goals with U.S. national security & foreign policy goals,” explains Casazza.

Having built years of expertise in developing defense trade export strategies in the areas of policy, releasability, export controls, and international program execution, Steve’s career path was shaped by 9/11. Much like the saying “tragedy drives innovation,” Steve’s DTS team today is powered by the reverberations of the attacks and the vision that enhancing the capability of U.S. allies enhances the protection of U.S. Warfighters. “We are a team of enthusiasts advancing the economic security of the U.S. defense industrial base, while balancing U.S. national security and foreign policy interests,” emphasizes Casazza. 

A Holistic Approach for a Friction-Creating Apparatus 

Within the aerospace and defense industry, AECA and ITAR are often seen as impediments to growth, lacking consistency and predictability. There is the added hiccup of keeping updated with changing U.S. Government regulations and policies that drive export approval decisions. Business success requires a holistic view of the processes and an understanding of behind-the-scenes to navigate the bureaucracy to identify the export approval path of least resistance. 

This is where the subject matter expertise and service offerings of DTS come into play. 

DTS strives to bridge strategy to implementation in all areas of defense trade policy, releasability, export controls, and international program execution in balance with US national security & foreign policy interests. “We navigate export controls to develop international sales and decrease the friction of compliance with the ITAR while integrating complex international business requirements into strategies for successful program implementation. We also guide our clients through the security cooperation enterprise to access business intelligence, acquire new business and shore up current contracts,” says Casazza. “For export restrictions on sensitive technology developed by the U.S. defense industry, DTS provides design for exportability strategies to facilitate the release of these technologies that the U.S. Government deems critical and restricted by technology security & foreign disclosure requirements,” he adds. 

Customer-Centricity and Tactical Empathy

Besides their expertise in offering integrated solutions, what sets DTS apart from the competition is their customer-centricity and tactical empathy towards customer needs. “Instead of having separate teams with different skill sets and different focus areas, we have divided the team based on customer relationships. This is to ensure each solutions team is dedicated to their portfolio of customers, while formulating an integrated strategy that is more than just the sum of individual experiences,” says Casazza. 

The unique approach has enabled DTS to reduce the time and complexity involved in export authorization processing as well as rejection rate for all their customers. “The path of least resistance might not always be what customers initially have in mind. If the client is open to alternatives in a given situation, you are able to work through the different variables and find a way to be successful. Striving for the ‘yes,’ even with the deck stacked against us, has been one of the driving factors moving our company forward,” says Casazza. “Coupled with tactical empathy that helps in understanding the perspective of our customers’ business needs, and also the national security and foreign policy perspective of the U.S. Government, we are able to come up with solutions that really satisfy both the parties,” he adds.

DTS’s tactical empathy is best exemplified by a defense exporter’s successful partnership story. The client, who has been in business for multiple decades, used to make peace with the export license processing time of four to five months—a stark contrast to the speed their business demanded. The delays and unpredictability led to low customer satisfaction and increased financial strain on the business. Deciding to outsource their ITAR compliance support, the company partnered with DTS to manage it for them. DTS’ strong relationships with the U.S. Government and subject matter understanding of the regulations and processes put in place by the ITAR enabled them to decrease the export authorization processing time to less than half, and the rejection rate down to zero. This ultimately increased business speed, giving the client a financial advantage. 

A Culture that Motivates Clients to Succeed

Talking about the recipe behind similar success stories, Casazza attributes it all to the company’s work culture and nurturing environment. “Walking through the virtual halls of DTS, you can hear the laughter from our teams and witness the camaraderie within. It is the breeding ground for all our collaborative innovation.” The firm’s unique culture has also been the key element in client satisfaction. “We are specially known for our social media Friday memes. The memes are our take on what is happening in the defense exports industry and turning them into light-hearted comics. It is always good to see clients and industry veterans reacting to our memes,” laughs Casazza.

Four years into the business, DTS is still fuelled by the start-up energy that has helped them in successful collaboration and effective re-invention of business strategies. “We are constantly adapting and updating. We are in our third iteration, improving the way we manage tasks and maintaining cost-schedule and performance. Over the next couple of years, we want to scale our business and become the H&R block of export authorizations,” says Casazza on the company’s vision. “You can expect DTS to evangelize design for exportability and releasability as an enablers of defense sales, support companies navigating ITAR Consent Agreement requirements, and be your partner in defense exports requirements integration through Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures. We are just getting started,” says Casazza.

As for the spirit that drives everyone uniformly at DTS, Casazza recalls the impression the 9/11 attacks have left on his team. “The tragedy has had a deep impact on us and we take our job very seriously. We view ourselves as enabling the U.S. Defense Industry in keeping the country safe and the national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. Government at the forefront,” concludes Casazza.