Tensions Flare During SASC Hearing

A Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the use of Russian-made rocket engines in military space launches quickly grew heated on Jan. 27. Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) repeatedly demanded to know how Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Unders?ecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall feel about ULA declining to bid in the first competitive national security space launch, despite being paid $800 million per year to stay in business. “How can you compete when your competition is being paid $800 million a year just to stay in business?” McCain asked, referencing the fact that both Kendall and James advocated competition in their opening statements to the committee. “What’s the penalty? What’s the penalty for that?” McCain asked. In her opening statement, James said she was “very surprised and disappointed” when ULA did not bid on the GPS III launch opportunity, and noted she has asked her legal team “to review what could be done about this.” Kendall told McCain he agrees “they should be bidding on our launches.” (James prepared testimony.)