McCain Calls for DOD Investigation into Statements by ULA Executive

McCain Calls for DOD Investigation into Statements by ULA Executive

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today called for DOD to investigate statements made by a senior United Launch Alliance (ULA) official that were reported in the media.  ULA President Tory Bruno disavowed the remarks by ULA Engineering Vice President Brett Tobey, who has since resigned.

McCain spoke at the opening of a hearing before his Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) today where Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and two other top DOD officials testified.  McCain did not refer to Tobey by name, but said the “disturbing statements … raise troubling questions about the nature of the relationship” between DOD and ULA.  “This committee treats with the utmost seriousness any implication that the department showed favoritism to a major defense contractor or that efforts have been made to silence members of Congress.”

The controversy stems from an account on Reddit and a story in Space News reporting on statements made by Tobey on March 15 to an audience at the University of Colorado-Boulder.   Both sites have links to a recording of the remarks.    His comments about ULA’s competition with SpaceX, the competition between Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne in building engines for ULA’s new Vulcan rocket following political pressure to discontinue use of Russian RD-180 engines for the existing Atlas V, and other topics were quite frank.

Bruno distanced the company from Tobey’s comments soon after they became public.

McCain told Carter that “I expect you will make a full investigation into these statements and take action where appropriate.”  The topic did not arise again during the hearing, which was broadly on the U.S. defense posture and the impact of the budget caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act.   Space was mentioned only in the context of three areas where more investment is needed; cyber and electronic warfare were the other two.

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