August 07, 2013
Although Senate appropriators and authorizers didn’t cut the 2014 request for the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), they are intensifying their scrutiny of the program and how new competitors in the launch market are received.
In the Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying the fiscal 2014 defense spending bill, the committee says it “continues to be concerned by the lack of visibility in the funding requests to support the EELV program.” The full committee approved its version of the bill on Aug. 1.
Since passage of the final 2013 spending bill in March, the Air Force has managed program procurement under two separate line items: Launch Services, which covers the launch vehicles, and Launch Capability, which supports launch infrastructure and other work to maintain assured access to space. The 2014 request documents don’t reflect this separation yet, but the 2015 documents will, the service says.
Senate authorizers also left the $1.86 billion request unchanged, but expressed similar concerns about new entrants such as SpaceX that are looking to compete in the military launch business with EELV manufacturer United Launch Alliance (ULA).
“The committee’s understanding from new entrants is that while they are generally pleased with the [current] strategy, there are still concerns with the EELV Launch Capability (ELC) funding and whether it gives an unfair advantage to the incumbent [ULA],” the committee report says.
“Likewise, the committee expects that once a new entrant is certified it will have to establish the acquisition rigor that the current incumbent undergoes.”
The 2013 bill cut the $1.68 billion request slightly, and directed $805 million for launch services and $655 million for launch capability.
“The conferees direct that none of the recommended reduction to the EELV Launch Capabilities program be applied against mission assurance activities,” a conference report said.