Cornyn lifts hold on Army acquisitions chief

Cornyn lifted the hold after he received a letter from the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, detailing the steps the Pentagon was taking with Rosoboronexport’s Mi-17 contract after Cornyn and other lawmakers raised concerns earlier this year.

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“The Department condemns the actions of Rosoboronexport in supplying arms and ammunition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose forces have used these weapons to murder Syrian civilians,” Kendall wrote in the letter to Cornyn, obtained by The Hill.

A congressional aide said that the hold was lifted because of the assurances the Pentagon made on both the audit of the contract and for a competitive bidding process.

The Defense Department had initially defended its contract with the Russian company, saying in June when Cornyn placed the hold that it was the only “legally available method” to get the helicopters to the Afghan forces.

“We're not buying helicopters for the Syrian regime. We're buying helicopters in support of the Afghan Air Force,” Little told reporters.

In the letter, Kendall said the Pentagon would try to reduce the number of new Russian aircraft that would be needed, and said DOD would consult Congress before acquiring any additional Mi-17 aircraft.

“We continually work with U.S. industry partners to identify U.S.-made aircraft for this purpose,” Kendall wrote. “However, in the case of Afghanistan, a mixed mobility aircraft fleet is highly undesirable at this time.”

The lifted hold was first reported by Inside Defense.