$418M Kenyan arms deal bewilders lawmakers, USAF acquisition office accused of corruption

IOMAX USA INC’s Archangel aircraft

President Trump is spending his first weeks in office scrutinizing several contracts he believes aren’t in the financial best interest of the American taxpayer.

However, it’s now being reported the previous administration may not have been acting quite as attentive when it approved a $418 million defense contract for Kenya to a ‘big box’ U.S. defense contractor — one that has zero familiarity providing the proposed unique airframe, and at double the cost to Kenya.

This contract has the innovative airframe subject-matter expert and lawmakers seeking answers.

The sale, approved by the State Department and privately notified to Congress on January 19, would allow Kenya to buy 14 weaponized crop-duster-like planes — including two trainer planes and services, for missions against terrorist group al-Shabaab.

A small, disabled veteran-owned company called IOMAX USA INC builds the innovative aircraft. The company is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C., and already produces the “Archangel” at a much lower cost … yet, the winning bid was awarded to well known defense contractor L3 Technologies — which has never produced such a plane, according to reporting by News & Record.

Ron Howard, a U.S. Army veteran who started IOMAX in 2001, wants to know why his company was not selected.

His best guess: The playing field is tilted.

“It’s not a defense-contractor squabble. This is the acquisition law as written to protect large defense contractors,” Howard said.

Like Howard, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (R-13th District), wants to know why IOMAX was not chosen.

U.S. Reps. Mark Meadows (R-11th District) and Walter Jones (R-3rd District), have signed on as co-sponsors as well as Republican U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter of California, Doug LaMalfa of California, Gary Palmer of Alabama, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) also has played a role in finding out what’s going on.

If things are allowed to stand, Kenya will pay $418 million for L3 to make 12 border-patrol aircraft, two trainer aircraft and provide the weapons package, technical support and program management, according to the U.S. State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

IOMAX could do the same for $237 million dollars, according to a Budd aide.

Rep. Ted Budd told Breitbart News the deal is “politics.”

“Why are they sending it (the contract) to someone that’s produced zero, for twice the price? This is inappropriate.”

Budd said the current deal is not a good one for the Kenyans either. He met with the Kenyan Deputy Chief of Mission recently, who was allegedly “flabbergasted” they were potentially paying almost $200 million more than necessary.

“We’ve had several Kenyans reach out and thank us,” he said.

Several Kenyan analysts also questioned the sale on Twitter, with the accompanying hashtag #KDFWeaponsScam. KDF is short for Kenyan Defense Force.

We could have bought 5 of these Bell Boeing V-22 Ospreys at the $418 million expenditure #KDFWeaponsScam pic.twitter.com/2XXdS9g7VT

IOMAX was unaware of the contract award until the State Department, which approves all foreign military sales, publicly announced it Jan. 23, the Monday after Trump’s inauguration.

According to Breitbart News, it’s not only Republicans who are suspect in the deal, Democrats are also scratching their heads wondering how L3 wins a sole-source contract when the contractor has never build a similar aircraft.

Georgia Democrat Sanford Bishop will join Republicans in signing a letter being sent to the Kenyan ambassador to the U.S.

Breitbart News reports the letter reads, “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.”

According to Howard, Burr had discussions with Air Force officials.

In the end, Burr was apparently told the Air Force chose L3 because of its ability to have its planes certified — even though the company has never made and sold a weaponized version of the crop duster like IOMAX’s.

Lawmakers suspect, though have no evidence, that in this case, the implementing agency — an Air Force acquisition office, known as the “Big Safari” at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, steered the contract to L3.

The Air Force directed all inquiries to DSCA and the State Department, which is in charge of the process.

The Kenyan sale is not the first time IOMAX has been kept out of a contract to sell a plane it makes. Similar scenarios happened with Yemen and Jordan, Budd said. In his view, there are “credible allegations of faulty contracting practices, fraud, and unfair treatment surrounding this sale.”

Given that this proposed contract was decided without competition to a company that has no experience or track record producing this kind of aircraft, and for a price that is more than double what a contractor in our district has quoted, further investigation is definitely in order,” Budd said in an email to News & Record.

Budd also introduced a joint resolution in the House earlier this month to halt the sale. If the resolution were adopted, it would be the first time Congress has voted to block a foreign arms deal since 1986.

Although the 30-day notification period for Congress before a foreign military sale can go forth ended Sunday, lawmakers can still halt the sale by passing a resolution of disapproval, according to the Breitbart News report.

“We need to ensure that Kenya, a longtime ally, is getting a fair deal, and that veteran-owned small businesses in our state aren’t getting shut out of competition because of government favoritism toward giant contractors,” Budd said in News & Record reporting.

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