by WorldTribune Staff, February 22, 2017
Lawmakers have requested a congressional investigation into a $418 million weapons sale to Kenya on Jan. 19, former President Barack Obama’s last day in office.
The State Department approved the sale to Kenya of 14 weaponized crop-duster-like planes — including two trainer planes and services, for missions against terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Rep. Ted Budd, North Carolina Republican, is leading a group of lawmakers who are questioning why the contract to produce the planes was awarded to New York-based L3 Technologies, a major defense firm which has never produced such a plane. A smaller, disabled veteran-owned company in North Carolina that already makes the planes at a lower cost was not considered, Budd said.
The Mooresville, N.C. company, IOMAX USA Inc., put the pricetag for its production of the 14 planes at $237 million, according to a Budd aide.
“It looks like politics,” Budd said in a phone interview with Breitbart News on Feb. 20. “Why are they sending it to someone that’s produced zero, for twice the price? This is inappropriate.”
The lawmakers asking for the investigation said they have attempted to figure out how L3 Technologies received the “sole-source” primary contract, which means there is only one known source for the equipment requested, or only one single supplier that can fulfill the requirements.
IOMAX was unaware of the contract until the State Department, which approves all foreign military sales, publicly announced it on Jan. 23, the Monday after President Donald Trump was sworn in.
IOMAX, which takes in about $1 billion a year in sales compared to L3’s $10 billion, has 115 employees in Budd’s district, 49 percent of them being veterans.
“Our first interest is to look out for jobs in the district,” Budd said. “These are guys who are cutting sheet metal and doing rivets at the same time as those who are installing weaponized systems… It’s a whole workforce down there. It’s infuriating that they’d be cut out of a deal like this.
“They have to earn this deal on their own,” he added. “We can’t get the deal for them. But we want them to have a fair shot at it… They shouldn’t catch the brunt of politics.”
Budd also said the current deal is not a good one for Kenya. He recently met with the Kenyan Deputy Chief of Mission, who was said to have been “flabbergasted” that Kenya was potentially paying almost $200 million more than necessary.
Rep. Sanford Bishop, Georgia Democrat, joined Republicans in signing a letter to the Kenyan ambassador to the U.S. which states: “We believe Kenya would benefit by exploring its options in regard to this acquisition. We ask that the Government of Kenya take these facts, in particular the prospect of an ongoing congressional investigation of this sale, under consideration as it decides whether or not to proceed with this arms purchase.”
A State Department official, in emails obtained by Breitbart News, said in justifying L3’s selection that the Kenyan Ministry of Defense “conducted extensive market research.” At the same time, the official said the State Department did not possess that research. An Air Force official also said in an email that it was not provided the market research.