Washington, DC – Today House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO), Ranking Member Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) sent a letter to Secretary Gates expressing their concerns over reports that Iraq intends to purchase $100 million worth of military equipment from China.
Text of the letter is below:
Dear Secretary Gates:
We would like to express strong concern about a report, published in the October 4th edition of the Washington Post, that Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has ordered $100 million worth of military equipment from the People’s Republic of China. The equipment reportedly includes vehicles, small arms ammunition, explosives, communications equipment, and upgrades to a number of UH-1 helicopters.
We are certain that you must share our apprehensions about this reported arms deal, particularly in light of reports earlier this year that Ministry of Interior officials were involved in attempts to purchase weapons and equipment on the black market. While Iraq is a sovereign country and certainly has the right to use Iraqi money to order the equipment that they feel necessary to secure their nation, members of Congress – including senior members of the Armed Services Committee – continue to voice serious misgivings about weapons accountability in the Iraq theater of operations, alleged corruption within the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, and the ability of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process to address effectively the immediate military and security equipment needs of our foreign partners, such as Iraq.
Recent media reports, coupled with the knowledge that the Government of Iraq is entering into arms deals with other nations, have only heightened these concerns. As a result, we would like you to provide a written response to a number of questions, the answers to which will help us understand how the United States can ensure that Iraqi forces stand up responsibly and in the most transparent, effective way possible and that equipment intended for Iraqi forces poses no threat to the U.S. servicemembers:
- What assurances can you provide that the Government of Iraq did not use any U.S. funds to purchase Chinese weapons and equipment, as mentioned in the recent Post story, either through the FMS process or any other mechanism?
- Were Department of Defense (DOD) officials – including those in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) – aware of this pending purchase of Chinese weapons and equipment? If so, at what point in the process were they made aware of the purchase and by whom? What comments or support, if any, did they provide to the Iraqis?
- What is the Ministry of Interior’s rationale for purchasing equipment from the People’s Republic of China rather than other sources? Were any incentives provided by the Chinese of which you, CENTCOM officials, or MNSTC-I officials are aware, and if so, what were those incentives?
- How will the Government of Iraq track and account for any weapons purchased to ensure that they do not end up on the black market, in the hands of insurgents, or being misused in some other way? Are MNSTC-I officials satisfied that such a process will be transparent and effective? What will be MNSTC-I officials’ visibility into the disposition of these weapons?
- The recent Post article cited Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as criticizing the slow delivery of arms and material from the United States and linked this criticism to the purchase of equipment from China. I am aware that there is an Iraq-specific FMS Working Group that has been tasked with determining ways to streamline the FMS process toward ensuring more rapid delivery of items.
- What bureaucratic changes has the Working Group suggested to date? Assuming that some of these changes fall within the purview of the Department of Defense, what suggestions have you found acceptable? Of those, how and when will you implement them? Assuming that many of these suggested bureaucratic changes fall within the purview of the Department of State, how would you characterize DOD officials’ interactions with their State Department colleagues regarding both the FMS process and the Working Group’s suggestions?
- Has the Working Group suggested any legislative changes to date, and if so, when do you expect to send related legislative proposals to Congress?
- What recommendations, if any, has the Working Group made to ensure that U.S. manufacturers are not discriminated against in the FMS process?
We appreciate your kind attention to these questions and look forward to your timely response. We know that you share our concerns about these matters, and we hope that you will not hesitate to call on us if we can be of assistance.
Very truly yours,
IKE SKELTON DUNCAN HUNTER RICHARD NEAL
Chairman Ranking Member Member of Congress