Troubling Rosoboronexport Contract Examination Mandated by New NDAA Provision
Washington, D.C. – The Senate Armed Services Committee reported out a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization bill that requires the Comptroller General to investigate the Department of Defense’s ongoing contract with Russian state arms dealer Rosoboronexport. Human Rights First praised the effort led by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), noting that the investigation comes after evidence emerged about Rosoboronexport’s role in enabling the horrifying ongoing violence in Syria. “The investigation represents a good step forward in addressing the Defense Department’s inappropriate business relationship with one of the primary enablers of Syrian atrocities,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “We applaud Senator Cornyn’s continual leadership on this issue over the past several months and look forward to the day when the U.S. Government stops rewarding atrocity enablers with U.S. business. Atrocity prevention must be a key determining factor in the United States’ procurement policies and should trump convenience every time.” Russia, through Rosoboronexport, remains the top supplier of weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, and human rights organizations have reported finding Russian weapons at the site of atrocities in Syria this year. Independent reports estimate that over 10,000 civilians have been killed since the crisis started. Despite this deadly cooperation, the Department of Defense chose to enter into a nearly $1 billion, non-competitive contract with Rosoboronexport last year – after widespread human rights violations in Syria started. In addition, the United States is pro-actively choosing to extend the options on the contract, rather than ending it. The Comptroller General’s review will make the business relationship between Department of Defense and Rosoboronexport more transparent by examining the procurement process behind the DoD-Rosoboronexport contract, as well as the availability of alternative means for the Department of Defense to procure Mi-17 helicopters and parts. In March, Senator Cornyn led a bi-partisan group of 17 Senators to urge the Defense Department to cut ties with Rosoboronexport and took to the Senate floor with Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to call attention to the contract. Last week, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the NDAA prohibiting the Defense Department from entering into future contracts with any company arming the Syrian regime.