The article “Report Cites Concerns with U.S. Air Force Launch Competition” [Feb. 18, page A1] reflected neither the intent nor the findings of the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) new entrants. All the GAO report did was endorse the new-entrant certification process adopted by the Air Force. The fact that the new entrant doesn’t want to be held to the same performance and oversight standards as ( ) was not part of the GAO study and did not warrant inclusion in the SpaceNews article.
Clearly laid out in the report’s introduction, the GAO’s goal, pursuant to legislative action, was to review the Air Force’s new-entrant certification process and assess its thoroughness and appropriateness. In heralding something controversial versus a balanced piece, the article bore no resemblance to what was actually a timely, thoughtful GAO report.
Gwynne Shotwell, president of Space Exploration Technologies, is right on target when she calls for “additional steps that must be considered to ensure a fair and level playing field.” What was left out of the article, however, is that the leveling must be on the new-entrant side of the ledger. Because of the value of EELV payloads and the critical timeframes in which they must be deployed, ULA must abide by certified cost and pricing standards, interface specifications, intense government oversight, etc. — all elements not currently factored into new-entrant pricing.
In addition, the true intent of the EELV Launch Capability contract is not discussed, but is left unchallenged when referred to as a subsidy. The contract is 100 percent about the government’s requirement to have the capability to launch whenever necessary. The government’s requirement to have such guaranteed readiness will be there whether the launcher is ULA or a new entrant.
The writer is ULA’s vice president of Washington operations.