The House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) proposal for the next defense authorization bill looks to push the Air Force toward increasing competition for its space launch program, with plans to also debate an amendment at this week’s mark-up on a “less bureaucratic, more cost-effective” version of the administration’s proposed Space Force.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the HASC chairman, told reporters Monday at a Defense Writers Group breakfast a Space Force amendment will be brought up during Wednesday’s markup after specific language establishing the new military branch didn’t make it into the committee’s final proposal for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
“We have an agreement on an amendment that will be added to the full committee mark-up portion,” Smith said. “[Space Force] is going to be smaller and more focused, in our view.”
Smith noted the committee’s amendment follows the push to first establish a Space Force under the Air Force, while differing from the administration’s proposal by including fewer four-star generals and require less mandatory transferring of personnel from other areas.
“[This proposal] is more cost-effective in our view. It doesn’t have as much bureaucracy,” Smith told reporters.
HASC’s proposal also includes a provision for the Air Force to continue increasing competition National Security Space Launch program, an area Smith said has received pushback from service officials.
“Why they’re trying to kill this and are so upset about it, I still haven’t gotten a clear answer. What we’re doing here is perfectly consistent with the phase two launch competition,” Smith said.
The committee’s NDAA proposal doesn’t include a directive to halt Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement (LSP) until a new acquisition model is in place but instead urges the Air Force to increase competitive opportunities, specifically for newer participants such as SpaceX.
The Air Force in May released an RFP for phase 2, which will award contracts in the second quarter of FY ’20 to two companies to provide launch services through 2027 and potentially over 25 individual missions (Defense Daily, May 6).
Phase two follows the Air Force’s decision to award three launch service agreements to Northrop Grumman [NOC], Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing[BA], where the companies received funding to develop new launch vehicles. SpaceX, which is set to compete for LSP, was not selected for the funding agreement.
HASC’s proposal calls on the Air Force to provide SpaceX, or another company outside of three awardees, to receive launch assistance funding if they receive a phase two contract, and would direct the service to re-open LSP competition if the program extends past 29 launch missions.
“Whatever two companies don’t win, they’re still involved in space in a variety of different ways. They’re going to keep building commercial launch vehicles,” Smith said.
Smith said he discussed the proposal with the acting Air Force secretary over the weekend and planned to reach out to the service’s top acquisition official as well.
The full committee is set to mark-up its proposal on Wednesday.