The Pentagon has finally agreed to cut short its contract with Russian arms giant Rosoboronexport, roughly halving its agreement to procure helicopters for the Afghan military.
The $572,180,894 firm-fixed-price contract modification announced in June for 30 Mi-17 helicopters, spare parts, test equipment, and engineering support services raised ire of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as the state-owned Russian company does substantial business supplying the Syrian regime.
Congress passed a defense reauthorization bill that canceled the contract, but the White House reversed that even though Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a March letter to follow the letter of the law and not use the national security waiver in the NDAA amendment to move forward with the sale.
The DoD has already spent nearly $1 billion total on Mi-17s from Rosoboronexport and, before its decision to cancel the contract, planned to spend $345 million on 15 additional helicopters in Fiscal Year 2014.
“After more than three years of working to convince the Defense Department to end this contract, I’m glad it finally has,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “The idea that the United States Department of Defense would use American tax dollars to buy helicopters from a Russian company that remains a chief supplier to the murderous Assad regime in Syria is absolutely mind-blowing.”
“And to think that as a result, the hardworking men and women at the Sikorsky factory in Stratford had been sending a portion of their paychecks to a foreign helicopter manufacturer is sickening,” he added. “When the DoD buys helicopters, they should buy American helicopters, plain and simple.”
The contract has been a bipartisan issue, but one reason Connecticut Dems jumped in was because of the lost business to Sikorsky in their home state.
“This wrong and wasteful contact should have been canceled a long time ago – preventing taxpayer dollars from indirectly funding the sale of arms to the Assad regime for the slaughter of the Syrian people,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “The Army’s mishandling of this arms program, as well as the Afghan military’s inability to maintain the helicopters, further underscores why this contract should have been canceled long ago. I applaud DOD for correcting this wrong, and hope the agency buys American in the future. We should buy American helicopters, period. I will be introducing legislation shortly to ensure that we do not do business again with foreign companies that enable war crimes in Syria and that the Army has a plan in place to transition Afghanistan to buy American helicopters when needed.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) urged the Pentagon to end all of its contracts with Rosoboronexport.
“That bipartisan legislation made crystal clear to the Pentagon that they need to stop using American taxpayer dollars to subsidize the atrocities taking place in Syria,” DeLauro said. “U.S. taxpayer money should be spent on American made systems, not no-bid contracts that the Afghan Security Forces cannot even fly.”