Senators Hammer EELV Spending

Several members of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel urged Air Force leadership Wednesday to take a closer look at Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program costs, saying they planned to press Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to re-examine the launch competition effort. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Air Force is reducing its launches where it allows competition from 14 to seven, even though the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, Frank Kendall, had directed USAF to compete more EELV cores. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she was not satisfied with progress towards opening up competition. “I am convinced costs are not going to be lower,” Feinstein said of the current structure of the EELV contract. Six senators are sending a letter to Hagel to ask him to take a “closer look” at the program, she added. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James noted several launches have been pushed beyond the five-year spending plan due to the longer service life of Global Positioning System satellites. James also addressed an Air Force review, which is due at the end of May, into the viability of the supply chain for Russian-made rocket motors. James said the USAF has a two-year supply, noting that spare parts for these engines are also important. If anything were to go wrong, the Air Force could use the Delta IV as a “fall back,” she added.