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Friday, September 8, 2017

Kenyan AT-802L Sale Clear to Move Forward

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on September 5, 2017 following requests from the U.S. Congress to review the details of a potential sale of 12 AT-802L aircraft to Kenya that had raised questions of impropriety.

A discrepancy between the prime contractor for the AT-802L and the prime contractor selected by Kenya had prompted lawmakers to request an investigation into the sale, which was approved by the State Department in January 2017.

The prime contractor for the AT-802L is L3 Technologies, in partnership with Air Tractor, which is a subcontractor for that specific model. L3 is the prime contractor because it integrates its systems onto the AT-802L. However, Kenya had initially selected Air Tractor as the prime contractor in its first request for the aircraft. In January 2017, the country clarified that L3 was the requested prime contractor.

Upon reviewing the process of the sale, which went through the U.S. foreign military sales (FMS) program, GAO "found that the events related to this FMS transaction are consistent with the standard FMS process." The GAO report (PDF) noted that the U.S. does not generally need to investigate why a contractor makes sole-source contracting requests.

Moreover, the GAO report stated, "Air Force and DSCA officials stated that they did not have any reason to believe that Kenya improperly selected the AT-802L. The Air Force determined that Kenya made a reasonable choice when it selected the AT-802L aircraft."

The GAO report clears potential legal hurdles for the sale.

GAO added that to date, the sale has not been concluded. Following a Congressional review period, Kenya was offered the 12 AT-802Ls. The potential sale had an expiration date of June 16, 2017. In June, Kenya requested an extension to September 16, 2017, which was granted. Kenya sought the extension so that a purchase could be made after the results of a presidential election, due to be held in August.

That election, held on August 8, was overturned a month later by the Kenyan Supreme Court, citing irregularities in the election process. A new election is set for October 2017.

It is unclear if Kenya will seek a further extension of the AT-802L purchase until after the election is held again, as the first extension will expire before the new election is held.

Along with the AT-802Ls, Kenya was approved earlier in the year for the purchase of 12 MD 530F helicopters. Both of these sales are aimed at improving the counterinsurgency capabilities of the Kenyan Air Force, which is currently engaged in fighting the Somali militant group al-Shabaab. The MD 530F sale was approved in May but nothing further has been reported since; it is possible that Kenya is waiting until after the election to finalize a purchase on the MD 530Fs as well.

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