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Blumenthal Urges Joint Chiefs Of Staff Chairman To Reconsider Russian Helicopter Contract

Senator Reiterates Call To End This Contract In Floor Speech And Committee Hearing

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing – urged General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to reconsider the Department of Defense’s $1.11 billion sole-source contract with the Russian company Rosoboronexport for Mi-17 helicopters, spare parts, and maintenance services. Recently, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction 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. Blumenthal also spoke on the Senate floor about this contract after the hearing. Video of his floor speech is available here. A portion of the speech is below.

This contract will literally waste a total of more than $1 billion in taxpayer money. Afghan National Forces lack pilots and personnel to fly and repair these helicopters, which will be sitting on the runways of Afghan airfields without any use – rusting and rotting away.

“Keep in mind we are purchasing these helicopters from a Russian export agency that is selling arms to Assad in Syria for the murder and slaughter of his own people, a company that is based in a country – Russia – that is providing refuge to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, 137 technicians at the National Guard Helicopter Repair Facility in Connecticut have been furloughed.

“I call on my colleagues to join me in stopping the purchase of these helicopters, and advocating for the ‘No Contracting with the Enemy’ bill that Senator Ayotte and I have introduced.”