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Senate Evaluates Different Approaches for EELV Competition

On March 5, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense held a hearing, "National Security Space Launch Programs." The Department of Defense (DoD) has begun implementation of a new Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) acquisition strategy to maintain reliability and stability in the industrial base, while reducing costs and introducing competition.

The first phase of the strategy was to agree to a 36 core block buy. The second phase of the strategy will incorporate competition to compete an addition 14 cores (the 14 cores has now been reduced to 7).

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at two ways the competition could be run.

First, the DoD could contract similar to the way it currently contracts with United Launch Alliance (ULA), the other was to follow a commercial approach. GAO believes that if the DoD contracts similar to the way it contracts with ULA, the DoD could retain insight into contractor cost of pricing data, which would lend itself to a better bargaining position in future negotiations. However, GAO noted that approach could also add cost for the new entrants, requiring them to install new business systems to fulfill government data requirements.

Second, the GAO could follow a more commercial approach, which the GAO stated could provide an avenue to decrease launch prices and increase efficiencies. However, the GAO noted that the DoD would probably lose access to contractor cost and pricing data and some flexibility in rescheduling launches for when satellite deliveries skip.

The GAO did not recommend an approach, as it is not GAO's role to do so, and GAO noted that there were other possible approaches.

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