The Edmond Sun

Opinion

July 15, 2013

Pentagon purchase of Russian helicopters an outrage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In times of economic uncertainty and mounting national security issues, it is critical that each branch of government is allowed to play its constitutional role. We must protect the uniquely American system of checks and balances set forth by our forefathers, which helps prevent abuse or overreach of power. Stepping outside of the roles intended and defined only leads to unfortunate, harmful decisions that affect the entire country.

Rosoboronexport, the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports/imports of defense-related products, is currently providing weapons in the horrific Syrian civil war that already has claimed more than 93,000 lives. Last year, however, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law (P.L. 112- 239) legislation that prohibited the Department of Defense from doing business with this company. In May, the House unanimously passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, requiring that all contracts with Rosoboronexport cease.

It is clear that it is not in our nation’s best interests to continue any commercial relationship, indirectly or otherwise with this Russian-owned arms dealer. However, the Pentagon has continued to move forward with the purchase of 30 Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport for the Afghan National Security Forces despite legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama prohibiting such expenditures. The administration continues to defy and to blatantly disregard congressional intent in this matter, which is unacceptable.

First, not only is it reckless to subsidize a dealer that provides weapons to terrorists fueling the tragic Syrian civil war, but the purchase doesn’t even further the mission of ANSF. Due to lack of operational knowledge and expertise by the personnel charged with using the helicopters, the equipment itself is likely to go unused. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has reported that this $908 million investment in the Afghan Specialty Mission Wing (SMW) is ill-advised as “the Afghans lack the capacity — in both personnel and expertise — to operate and maintain the existing and planned fleets.” If the investment doesn’t help the mission, why purchase the helicopters in the first place?

Second, even if ANSF had greater expertise and was better equipped and trained to use these helicopters, we must return to the fact that this firm provides weapons to regimes that suppress their people and support terrorists. By entering into an agreement with Rosoboronexport, America is indirectly and unknowingly adding to, increasing and encouraging greater conflict in the Syrian region. This is certainly an abuse of taxpayer dollars, and it demonstrates that the Department of Defense must be held accountable to laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

In response to this outrageous contract and the administration’s disrespect for the role of the legislative branch, I joined with more than 80 of my colleagues in sending a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, demanding that the appropriate steps be taken regarding this Russian arms dealer. In this bipartisan effort, we reiterated the requirement and expectation that the Department of Defense provide a detailed assessment to Congress explaining its purchase of this equipment from Rosoboronexport, rather than alternatives manufactured in our own or allied countries. We also asked for an explanation about how this purchase is in the best interest of our national security.

Again, the president signed the NDAA last year that prohibited taxpayer FY13 funds from going to this Russian firm, yet this devious move appears to show the administration’s disdain for laws already set in place and the unique role of the legislative branch in authorizing the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Accountability in decision-making in the executive branch is severely lacking. It can only make us wonder what liberties will continue to be taken and power abused by the executive branch if Congress does not act to assert and protect its legislative authority.

U.S. REP. TOM COLE, R-Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

  • Tax deadline and no reform in sight

    The annual tax filing deadline, which comes next Tuesday, provides a good opportunity for tax reform advocates to decry the current law’s increasing complexity and inequities, and to urge enactment of a simpler, fairer system.

    April 10, 2014

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results