McCain Wants Investigation of Air Force EELV Contract

McCain Wants Investigation of Air Force EELV Contract

Following on the heels of SpaceX’s announcement earlier today that it is filing suit against the Air Force for its block buy contract of satellite launches from the United Launch Alliance (ULA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sent two letters to the Department of Defense (DOD) asking questions about that contract.

One letter is to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and the other to DOD’s Inspector General (IG).  Both are posted on McCain’s website.

The letter to James asks about what McCain says is the “apparently incomplete and incorrect nature” of her testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) earlier this month regarding the December 2013 award of a sole source block buy contract of 36 core vehicles from the ULA.  SpaceX announced today that it is filing suit against the Air Force for awarding that contract without competition.

McCain says that James’s testimony to SASC about the contract appears to be “specious” because she said that it was for “heavier launches” that no new entrant — e.g., SpaceX —  has been qualified to meet.  McCain argues that the Air Force has not stated what missions will be flown with those 36 core vehicles. 

The separate letter to DOD’s Inspector General asks for an investigation into four issues related to DOD’s decision to significantly reduce the number of national security space launches available for competition above the 36 core vehicles in the December 2013 contract.  Initially there were to be 14 launches in FY2015-2017 set aside for competition with “new entrants” like Space X, but the number recently was reduced by half.  DOD explains that seven of the launches were delayed until past FY2017.  McCain questions the rationale for those decisions and whether they support DOD’s contention that it is aggressively pursuing competition in procuring launch services as promised.

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