DoD acquisitions chief: Pentagon unlikely to change Air Force launch procurement strategy

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Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said DoD supports Air Force plans for Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement.

WASHINGTON — The Air Force launch service procurement competition in recent months has come under legal and political challenges. But the Pentagon currently has no plans to make any changes to the program, said Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

“There are no changes imminent,” Lord said on Monday at a Pentagon news conference. But Lord did not completely rule out future revisions to the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement.

“We will see how things go and adjust if necessary,” Lord said.

Even though no contracts have yet been awarded, companies competing in the NSSL Phase 2 competition already have taken the Air Force to court. And there is legislative language proposed by the House Armed Services Committee to change the rules set by the Air Force for the program and create more opportunities for new commercial launch companies to compete.

Four companies submitted proposals for the Phase 2 procurement — United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin. SpaceX and Blue Origin both have pursued legal action against the Air Force, arguing that it has failed to create a level playing field for them and other companies to be able to challenge heavily favored ULA.

Although the NSSL program is run by the Air Force, is it one of a handful of major defense procurements that receives additional oversight from the Pentagon. Lord said she has listened to the concerns of the industry and has discussed them with the Air Force.

“I talk to the Air Force all the time,” Lord said. “Launch services is something that is of particular interest to us.”

Lord insisted that so far the NSSL program will stay on its current course. “I think we have been very transparent and very consistent with what the process has been for launch services, and we plan to continue with that.”