Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

World's most transparent defense budget falls into corruption

The Pentagon refused to buy Russian Mi-17 helicopters worth about one billion dollars under the "public pressure." Congressional hearings have revealed that the deal was made without proper justification, by silencing possible alternatives. The secrecy hides the military budget considered to be the most transparent in the world, and there is a potential for corruption.

It turns out the Americans had a decent analogue of Russian helicopters for Afghan conditions, the Associated Press news agency reported. The information was received from an "unclassified" source, but later the report was classified. According to the report, in 2010 American-made helicopter Chinook-47D manufactured in Pennsylvania by Boeing was entered into the tender. The Associated Press wrote that the scandal surrounding the contract two years ago did not subside, and the Pentagon had this report but preferred to silence it. The AP reported that Congress was outraged and accused the Pentagon of misleading it by removing American companies from the tender, increasing its value by a third. The news agency wrote that the deal was still surrounded by secrecy, and noted potential fraud.

In April of 2012, "Rosoboronexport" has won the tender of the U.S. Army command for the purchase of military transport helicopters for the international coalition forces in Afghanistan (ISAF). In May of the same year a contract was signed to supply 21 Mi-17V5s amounting to $367.5 million dollars, and in June the Pentagon announced the purchase of ten additional machines in the same configuration. The choice of Russian helicopters was justified by military and economic feasibility. As stated by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, these are the only machines that are safe and reliable in Afghanistan, just like a Kalashnikov rifle. After the appointment of the new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Department has notified Congress of its intention to sign an additional contract with "Rosoboronexport" for the purchase of another 30 units. 15 helicopters were bought, and the rest of the contract for 63 units was canceled under pressure from Congress.

The debate highlighted the following reasons for its cancellation: "Rosoboronexport" has been accused of supplying weapons to Bashar al-Assad and Iran. There were statements that the Russian defense industry was rife with corruption, and there were concerns that Russian officials got wealthy on the American money. In addition, Edward Snowden who Russia dared to defend from the American tyranny had an impact on the deal. Republicans and Democrats unanimously came to the conclusion that the Pentagon had repeatedly and disingenuously used the study of 2010 justifying the choice of the Russian helicopter as excellent for the Afghans. Republican Senator John Cornyn asked why the Americans had to buy Russian helicopters when there were American manufacturers that could meet the same requirements.

Chinook - 47D helicopters were non-operational units that had to be repaired before they could be sold. Mi-17 is worth $16.4-18.2 million dollars, while the cost of the repaired CH-47D ranges from $12 to 14 million, that is, the cost of one Chinook - 47D was on average four million lower. The savings compared to the Russian contract would be $252 million dollars, or a quarter of the total amount. The proponent of cooperation with the Russian Federation, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter resigned a week before the hearing, but the Pentagon continues to deny the charges courageously and Congress refuses to declassify the unclassified part of the 2010 study and other records that support the decision to purchase the Mi-17 instead of Chinook helicopters or others, the AP reported.

The Pentagon reasonably stated that the aggregate cost of a restored Chinook helicopter is 40 percent higher than the cost of a new Mi-17, and indicated better performance characteristics of the Mi-17 in comparison with the Chinook-47D. Pentagon assured Congress that prices were "fair and reasonable." The General Director of "Rosoboronexport" Anatoly Isaykin shared this opinion. He said that his agency was "fully transparent" in the negotiation of acceptable prices for Mi-17 helicopters.

"Of course, no one in the United States wants to buy Russian helicopters, and the Pentagon's choice in favor of the Mi-17 was dictated by their exceptional performance characteristics," chief editor of National Defense Igor Korotchenko commented for Pravda.Ru. "There can be no corruption component as all contracts with Russia are studied by the FBI and other intelligence agencies with a magnifying glass. Our helicopters are low maintenance, very reliable, efficient, and are uncontested in Afghanistan. Second, Afghan pilots are familiar with our equipment, it has been used for a long time and they do not want anything else. Any American or Western helicopter delivered to Afghanistan fails in two months.   As for today's bickering, there are, first, very active senators and congressmen from those states on whose territory the helicopter is produced. When choosing these machines, they receive large donations from them and continue to actively lobby their interests. Activists of the second category are those who have anti-Russian attitude," the expert said.

Lyuba Lulko


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