Henry J. Kuss Jr., 67, an international defense consultant who was the Defense Department's chief arms salesman during the 1960s, died of cancer July 6 at Fairfax Hospital.
Mr. Kuss was frequently described in the media as the most successful arms salesman in history. He joined the Defense Department in 1953 and was put in charge of the arms sales program in 1961. From then until 1969, when he left the department as deputy assistant secretary for international logistics negotiations, he filled foreign arms orders totaling an estimated $15 billion.
But he brushed off suggestions that his job was selling things.
"We literally don't have to do a thing," he said in an interview with the New York Times in 1967. "We haven't had to go out and promote a sale since we started. We just make it known that it's possible to buy. If a country says to us they can buy an item cheaper in another part of the world, then we say, 'Go ahead and buy it.' We just like to tell them they'd better make sure it's really cheaper."
But associates of Mr. Kuss, a large, round-faced man, said he was a keen and skillful negotiator who was adept at bringing the standardization, high quality and lower unit costs of U.S. equipment to the attention of potential buyers in a way that they often could not ignore.
At the same time, Mr. Kuss's work was assisted by changes in the world economic and political climate. In the early years after World War II, the United States armed its allies against the threat of communism through gifts of military equipment rather than sales. From 1952 to 1961, for example, grants totaled $17 billion while sales were only $5 billion.
By about 1960, however, the Western allies had recovered enough from the war to pay for armaments, and the United States was becoming aware of an increasingly serious balance of payments. At that time, the U.S. dollar was backed by gold, and there were fears that foreign governments would insist that debts owed to them be paid in gold rather than dollars.
It became evident to Washington that the new ability of its friends to buy could be used to alleviate its payments problem and stem the gold flow. Robert S. McNamara, the defense secretary from 1961 to 1968, designated Mr. Kuss to put this program into effect.
Mr. Kuss already had broad experience in military assistance. He was a weapons technician for the Navy Department from 1946 until he joined the Defense Department. At Defense, he conducted several studies on the long-range military requirements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This gave him unusual insights into international arms requirements.
The first major success of the new policy was an arrangement under which West Germany agreed to buy U.S. military equipment to offset the cost of maintaining the sizable U.S. troop presence in that country.
For his work, Mr. Kuss received the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal from McNamara.
After leaving the government, he founded the American Trade and Finance Co. and Calcusearch Inc., international consulting firms in the fields of security, industrial development, technical education and related matters. In 1985, the two companies were merged into DFG International, a company in the same business. Mr. Kuss was a general associate of DFG until his death.
From 1985 to 1987, he also was vice president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Bethesda.
Henry John Kuss Jr. was born on Nov. 10, 1922, in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens in New York. He graduated from St. John's University, where he majored in economics. During World War II, he served in the Navy and was stationed in Washington. He remained here after the war.
He was a member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Society of Logistics Engineers, the Foreign Policy Discussion Group of Washington, the Georgetown Club and St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Springfield.
A resident of McLean, he was a member of the McLean Citizens Association and president of the Potomac Hills Citizens Association.
Survivors include his wife, the former Johanna M. Werner Derouet, of McLean; two children, Linda J. Musick of Burke and Karen L. Childs of Augusta, Ga.; two brothers, Russell Kuss of Burke and Richard Kuss of Los Angeles; and five grandchildren.
CORINA S. SMITH
Longtime Area Resident
Corina S. Smith, 85, a resident of the Washington area since 1917 who taught Spanish in a D.C. Recreation Department program in the 1950s, died of heart ailments July 5 at her home in Fairmount Heights.
Mrs. Smith was born in the Dominican Republic. She was a member of the Catholic Church of the Incarnation in Washington.
Her husband, Nelson R. Smith, died in 1963. Survivors include six children, Jose Smith of Huntington Beach, Calif., Carlos Smith of Hammonton, N.J., and Manuel Smith, Rafael Smith, Dolores Washington and Carmen Rojas, all of Washington; 34 grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren.