TBY talks to Howard G. Beasey, President and CEO of the American Turkish Council (ATC), on the evolution of the Council, sectors with potential for increased cooperation, and the defense industry.

Howard G. Beasey
Howard G. Beasey is an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran and retired United States Marine. Having completed his undergraduate education at North Carolina State University, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in August 2000. For more than two decades Mr. Beasey served as an infantry man, combat engineer, and company commander. In 2006, he attended the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA, completing his Master of Arts in National Security Affairs and Foreign Policy, and attended the Defense Language Institute. He was designated as a Turkish Foreign Area Officer and assigned to the region. Upon returning from Afghanistan in 2010, he was assigned to the Pentagon as the European Affairs Officer for the International Affairs Branch of Headquarters Marine Corps. Retiring in 2014 he joined Goldman Sachs as a Corporate Security Associate. He joined American-Turkish Council in February 2015 as the President and CEO.

How has the ATC evolved in the past year?

We were originally founded to foster the relationship between the US and Turkish defense sectors, but as the Turkish defense sector has become so much more mature in recent years and is becoming very capable on its own, we see that the ATC needs to expand itself. We need to branch out into a lot more of the emerging sectors. Accordingly, there have been changes to our flagship event, the Annual Conference on US-Turkish Relations. This year we intentionally changed the date of the event to September. Usually it's been in the summer time, as Congress winds down its year before leaving Washington, but this year we moved it to stay out of the elections here in Turkey. We also expanded the event to encompass broader economic and political communities that are part of the US-Turkish relationship. We are making a very strong effort this year to generate broad interest in the bilateral relationship, by going into some other industries we haven't been much into the past, like education or the energy sector. We are really looking at the renewable sector this year whilst agriculture is also important. We are excited this year to promote a more diverse group and conference, with which we are hoping to attract a wider audience.

Should there be more outreach from the Turkish business community to Congress?

It has to be done smartly, though. I think the way to do that is not through direct Turkish business outreach to Congress, but through business-to-business relationships and building business constituencies. That's done in many ways, such as joint ventures, and by establishing closer economic relations on a daily basis. That will translate to a higher level of trust and collaboration, which will find its way into Congress. Since I took over, I've been trying to promote inclusiveness. Most organizations that are in this sphere have a voice. At the ATC, we are really excited to work with these other organizations when our interests align. Relevant, timely events are really what we're going after, but they don't have to be large. Some of our members prefer smaller, more focused events for specific topics or sectors.

What role can US businesses play in supporting Turkish companies' ambitions to develop their own defense products?

We are in a transition phase now. Our Turkish members often tell me that they want to be partners, not customers. That is a very accurate way of putting it. Turkish defense companies want to do things with companies like Roketsan and Lockheed-Martin, who last year agreed on a missile deal for the F-35. Inherent in these types of joint ventures is technology and skills transfer. The impending Tor missile system is another example. The primary concern from the Turkish defense sector is that of learning new technologies and skills. Turkey has the manufacturing capacity, but it still lacks a certain amount of technology and engineering capacity. There are some incredibly well educated folks here in Turkey, of course, but it's the nuts and bolts of applying the knowledge they have and adopting their own indigenous products. Through joint ventures and other partnerships, I believe US companies can help Turkey on its road towards indigenous technology.