Hold lifted on Army acquisition chief’s nomination

Pentagon complies to senator's request to audit Russian arms dealer that received U.S. contract to build helicopters for the Afghan National Army.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, removed the last road block to the lengthy process of confirming Heidi Shyu as the Army’s top acquisition official.

Shyu has served in the role since May 31, 2011 since Malcolm O’Neill, the former Army acquisition chief, resigned and recommended his deputy, Shyu, take over. The Obama administration waited until this past February to officially nominate Shyu.

The Army has since had to work with Cornyn and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who each placed a hold on her nomination for separate reasons.

Coburn held up the nomination because he was upset about the sluggish pace of the Army’s Improved Carbine Competition. He released his hold in August.

That left Cornyn as the sole barrier between Shyu and the confirmation of her nomination. He released his hold Friday after the Defense Department agreed to investigate an arms dealer that supplied the U.S. Army with Mi-17 helicopters while also dealing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Cornyn demanded the Pentagon investigate Rosoboronexport and re-open the competition for the $375 million U.S. Army contract to supply 21 Mi-17s to the Afghan National Army.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition executive, wrote to Cornyn Thursday saying “the Department condemns the actions of Rosoboronexport in supplying arms and ammunition to the regime of  Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

He went further saying the Pentagon will open a competition to find a supplier rather than issue a sole-source contract to  Rosoboronexport for the 30 remaining Mi-17 helicopters the U.S. Army will buy for the Afghan National Security Force.

Kenall also complied with Cornyn’s request to order an audit of the sole-sourced contract awarded to Rosoboronexport for the 21 Mi-17s.

“The [Defense Contract Audit Agency] audit will examine the effect that the sole source negotiations had on the terms and conditions and price that the government obtained,” Kendall wrote in his letter to Cornyn.

He ended the letter with a disturbing admission about the acquisition of Russian built products like Mi-17 helicopters.

“The [DCAA] will make every effort to obtain the necessary pricing information, though doing so may be a challenge as a result of the inherent lack of cost and pricing data involved in acquiring military equipment from Russian entities,” Kendall wrote.