By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks), will hold a hearing on Friday, June 26, 10:30 a.m., at 2212 Rayburn House Office Building titled, “Assuring National Security Space: Investing in American Industry to End Reliance on Russian Rocket Engines.”
Chairman Rogers said: “The clock is ticking – our reliance on Russian rocket engines for national security space launches is ending. It is not the time to fund new launch vehicles, or new infrastructure, or rely on unproven technologies. It is the time for the Pentagon to harness the power of the American industrial base, and move with purpose and clarity in order to swiftly develop an American rocket propulsion system that ends our reliance on Russia as soon as possible.”
Representative Rogers said, “I will not allow the resources Congress has made available for this purpose to be wasted or misused.”
Congressman Rogers also announced that the House Armed Services Committee will also hold a hearing on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at 2118 Rayburn House Office Building titled, “Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century.”
Chairman Rogers said: “I thank Chairman Thornberry for holding this important hearing and for conducting this entire Nuclear Deterrent Oversight Week at HASC. As a country, we’ve lost visibility on the fundamental role our nuclear deterrent plays in our national security and international stability.”
The conservative Alabama Congressman continued, “With Russia making increasingly aggressive nuclear threats to the US and our allies, China’s increasingly belligerent activity against our allies, and the President’s apparent hell-bent pursuit of a nuclear deal that guarantees Iran a nuclear weapons capability and a cascade of proliferation in the Middle East, this hearing will remind everyone why nuclear deterrence is the Pentagon’s highest priority defense mission.”
On May 26, US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement on the Air Force’s certification today of SpaceX as a provider for defense space launch contracts: “The certification of SpaceX as a provider for defense space launch contracts is a win for competition. Over the last 15 years, as sole-source contracts were awarded, the cost of EELV was quickly becoming unjustifiably high. I am hopeful that this and other new competition will help to bring down launch costs and end our reliance on Russian rocket engines that subsidizes Vladimir Putin and his cronies.”
Sen. McCain has rejected requests by US officials for changes in federal law to let the two largest US arms makers use more Russian rocket engines to compete for military satellite launches against privately held SpaceX, which builds its engines in the United States.
The Pentagon has failed to halt purchases of the RD-180 Russian engines after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, upsetting some members of Congress.
SpaceX is a potential competitor to current monopoly launch provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N). SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk, who cofounded Pay Pal and owns Tesla Motors.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote McCain on May 11 asking that Congress amend federal law so the Pentagon can retain “assured access to space.”
Pentagon officials fear that if anything goes wrong with the SpaceX rocket that the US military will not be able to launch satellites into space, without a backup option. They claim that the military will lose access to the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets without being allowed to continue importing the Russian rocket engines.
Critics of the Russian engines claim that the Russians have priced the rocket engines so exorbitantly that we are indirectly funding Putin’s military industrial complex by paying the huge markup on the rockets engines.
McCain argues that the letter ignored NASA’s role in providing assured access to space, and the law did not prevent NASA from continuing to use the Russian rocket engines. That meant NASA could always step in to help in the event of a crisis.
ULA has said that their new Delta IV rockets with American engines won’t be ready until 2022 at the earliest.
Congressman Mike Rogers represents Alabama’s Third Congressional District.
(Original Reporting by Reuter’s Andrea Shalal contributed to this report).