House Bill Would Tighten ICBM Conversion Scrutiny

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a 2011 defense authorization bill May 19 that would require the U.S. Defense Department to provide more-timely notice to Congress when it elects to use excess ICBM motors for space launch vehicles.

U.S. federal law allows the Defense Department to use ICBM motors in launch vehicles only when it can show that doing so provides a cost savings to the government, meets all mission requirements and has been approved by the secretary of defense. The current law states that Congress must be notified 30 days before the ICBM motor conversion takes place. The House bill would require congressional notification when the launch contract or task order is awarded, which can be years before the actual conversion of the motors takes place.

The House bill would also require a cost analysis to be delivered to Congress that includes the costs that would be incurred by the government to convert the ICBM motors.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on May 28 drafted its version of the bill, which does not include a similar provision. The full Senate is expected to consider the bill in the coming weeks, which will be followed by a conference with House legislators to hammer out differences between the two bills.