Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) issued the following statements after the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) notified Congress it is canceling its contract for MI-17 helicopters with Rosoboronexport – a Russian state-owned company that also sells arms to Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian regime. DOD has already spent almost $1 billion on MI-17s from Rosoboronexport to help grow the Afghan military, 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,” Murphy 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. When the DoD buys helicopters, they should buy American helicopters, plain and simple. That’s been a focus of my work in Congress, and I’ll continue to right wrong-headed procurement policies like this.”
Blumenthal said, “I am pleased that after my repeated calls to the Secretary of Defense and General Dempsey to end this wasteful spending, the Department of Defense is terminating the contract to buy Russian helicopters. 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. 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.”
“This is a welcome, if long overdue first step in ending our relationship with Rosoboronexport, and I urge the Pentagon to end all their contracts with this company” DeLauro said. “I have long fought to end our dealings with this Russian arms dealer and successfully led multiple pieces of legislation to do so. 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. U.S. taxpayer money should be spent on American made systems, not no-bid contracts that the Afghan Security Forces cannot even fly. I am proud Congress united in a bipartisan manner to deliver that message, and that the Pentagon has finally heard us.”