DOD Procurement of Mi-17 Helicopters

April 1, 2013

What GAO Found

In summary, DOD's Office of the Secretary of Defense directed the Navy to cancel its competitive solicitation for 21 civilian Mi-17s because Russian authorities told DOD in late 2010 that, in accordance with Russian law, they would sell the helicopters only through Rosoboronexport since they were intended for military end use. Specifically, in response to letters written by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to DOD that it considered the Mi-17s to be military because they were for use by the Afghan Air Force, and therefore could be sold only through Rosoboronexport, the sole entity responsible for Russian military exports.

DOD did not assess alternative means for procuring Mi-17s after verifying that Russia would sell the helicopters to the United States only through Rosoboronexport. The Navy's original procurement strategy in 2010 was to purchase civilian Mi-17s and subsequently add weapons to them for use in Afghanistan. However, given the Russian government's determination, DOD officials stated that no alternative approaches to procure the helicopters were available to them as any attempt to procure a new civilian aircraft could be blocked by Rosoboronexport if DOD did not go through them, and purchasing used helicopters posed safety concerns. Although some potential vendors told us that, if awarded a contract, they could provide these aircraft to DOD at a lower cost, an Army analysis determined that the price paid to Rosoboronexport for the Mi-17s was reasonable and fell within the historical range of the unit price paid for similar aircraft.

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