DOD Inspector General Initiates Investigation Into Air Force Awards to ULA

DOD Inspector General Initiates Investigation Into Air Force Awards to ULA

The Inspector General’s office of the Department of Defense (DOD) has notified DOD officials that it is opening an investigation into whether contracts were awarded to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) in accordance with DOD and federal regulations.  The investigation was requested by Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Ashton Carter following remarks by then-ULA Vice President for Engineering Brett Tobey that were recorded and posted online.  Tobey has since resigned.

The recording of the March 15, 2016 seminar where Tobey spoke is currently posted on soundcloud.  Tobey made many comments about competition in the launch vehicle development and launch services businesses.  One that may have prompted the investigation is an assertion that ULA’s decision not to bid on the first competitive Air Force launch contract (for a GPS launch) after SpaceX became eligible to compete irritated the Air Force because “they had bent over backwards to lean the fill to our advantage” (at the 17:11 mark on the recording).  That is only one of a number of controversial statements he made, however.

ULA President Tory Bruno disavowed Tobey’s comments soon after they became public on March 16 and Tobey resigned shortly thereafter.

At a March 17 hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), called on DOD to investigate Tobey’s “disturbing statements” that “raise troubling questions about the nature of the relationship” between DOD and ULA.  SecDef Carter was one of the witnesses at that hearing.  McCain is strong supporter of competition in the national security space launch market.  

Yesterday (March 22), DOD Deputy Inspector General for Policy and Oversight Randolph Stone sent a memo to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics informing them of the investigation into “assertions made by United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) former Vice-President of Engineering relating to competition for national security space launch and whether contracts to ULA were awarded in accordance with DoD and Federal regulations.”  The memo, which is posted on the DOD IG’s website, said the investigation would involve site visits, interviews and documentation review with DOD and ULA personnel.

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