Hartford, CT - U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Monday – joined by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) – released a letter in which he urged Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider the agency’s $1.11 billion sole-source contract with the Russian company Rosoboronexport for Mi-17 helicopters, spare parts, and maintenance services. This is the second time Blumenthal has urged DOD to reconsider this contract.
Recently, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report that found that the Afghan military – to which the U.S. provides the Russian helicopters for the purposes of conducting anti-narcotics and counter terrorism operations – can neither operate nor afford to maintain the helicopters. In addition, as a result of this contract, U.S. tax dollars are going to an arms export company – Rosoboronexport – that is complicit in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's murder of innocent Syrians and is controlled by a country – Russia – that is sheltering the American fugitive Edward Snowden.
“Section 1233 of S.1197, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, prohibits the use of funds to enter contracts with Rosoboronexport,” the senators wrote in a letter to Hagel. “As we work together to enact this provision into law, we call to your attention that the fact that you currently have the authority to end this contract with Rosoboronexport. Not only does it fail to meet the requirements of the Afghan military, but it also provides U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to the Russian government as it shelters a fugitive from justice and undermines U.S. policy on Syria.”