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Press Release


Nation’s Oldest Taxpayer Group Praises Senators for Requesting “Hold” on Launch of Costly Rocket Buy

For Immediate Release October 28, 2011
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700

(Alexandria, VA) – By calling for a pause in the fiscally-troubled procurement of space-launch vehicle cores, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) could help to avert more “major malfunctions” in the federal budget. That’s the opinion of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which has warned about the flawed financial trajectory of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) for several years.

“Last month’s critical report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is only the latest authoritative confirmation that the entire EELV project needs a serious course correction,” said NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp. “Our members join with Senators Levin and McCain in asking Defense Secretary Panetta for a prudent time-out from further EELV acquisition plans before taxpayers are marooned with even worse liabilities.”

As far back as 2005, NTU raised concerns to Congress that EELV and the then-pending United Launch Alliance (ULA, created to supposedly facilitate program savings) was showing “many telltale signs” of previous government contracts gone awry. As NTU’s open letter sent to lawmakers six years ago concluded, “The Air Force’s newly-revised EELV acquisition strategy makes a bad situation worse for taxpayers. … NTU urges you to support the elimination of the EELV subsidy contracts and instead return to price-competitive acquisitions.” 

Since that time most of the reservations taxpayer advocates expressed about EELV and ULA have come true. The cost savings envisioned by allowing Boeing and Lockheed Martin to merge operations into ULA have not materialized: in the space of a year the Air Force has raised its five-year budget plan projection for EELV by $3.7 billion, or more than 50 percent. EELV expenditures on a government-wide basis will amount to $15 billion between Fiscal Years 2013 and 2017, a sum that could “crowd out” other budget items. Meanwhile, a planned government buy of 40 EELV “launch cores” threatens to lock taxpayers in to high prices while locking out potential competition that could deliver fiscal benefits. GAO recently found that the purchase “may be based on incomplete information” and that “cost or pricing data for the EELV program are largely unknown.”

Sepp encouraged Levin’s and McCain’s colleagues in Congress to “support the EELV pause and ask hard questions about the program’s future. When it comes to the government’s space-launch strategy ‘mission control’ means more collaboration among agency customers, more competition for federal business, and more cost-consciousness from program administrators,” he said.

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Since its founding in 1969 NTU and its members have been involved in a plethora of discussions over defense purchasing policies, including in recent times the KC-45A program, the F-35 alternate engine, and the Medium Extended Air Defense System. Note: For more on NTU’s work in this and other public policy areas, visit www.ntu.org.