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McCain calls for investigation of fired ULA executive’s controversial comments

Sen. John McCain, center, opened a March 17 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing by asking Defense Secretary Ash Carter to investigate controversial statements that cost a ULA executive his job. Credit: DoD/Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is asking the Defense Department to investigate comments made earlier this week by a now-former United Launch Alliance executive.

At the beginning of a hearing Thursday of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain, the committee’s chairman, asked Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to look into “disturbing statements” made by Brett Tobey, vice president of engineering at ULA, during a public seminar Tuesday at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Tobey contradicted ULA’s previous public statements on why it did not bid on a GPS-3 launch contract last fall, telling his audience the Air Force “was not happy with us not bidding that contract because they felt that they’d bent over backwards to lean the field in our advantage, but we even said we don’t bid because we saw it as a cost shootout between us and SpaceX.”

ULA cited Pentagon accounting requirements and internal concerns about its authority to procure Russian RD-180 rocket engines for future Atlas 5 launches as the chief reasons for sitting out the GPS-3 competition last year.

Tobey also was critical of McCain, telling his audience that the senator’s unrelenting focus on ending the Air Force’s dependence on the RD-180 was causing heartburn for senior Lockheed Martin executives and Pentagon officials alike.

Tobey said that when Marilyn Hewson, chief executive of ULA parent company Lockheed Martin, meets with top DoD officials to discuss the F-35 fighter, the Littoral combat ship and other big-ticket Pentagon programs, “the first thing that’s going to come out of the DoD leadership’s mouth when she walks in the door is,’What are you doing with that damn RD-180 engine? I’m sick of McCain attacking us.’

“So she’s got this much of her budget that’s been taking up this much of her emotional energy when she goes in to see the leaders across the board. And so they’re trying to figure out, how do we silence McCain?”

ULA promptly disavowed Tobey’s comments and the 32-year Lockheed Martin veteran resigned from the Lockheed-Boeing joint venture Wednesday after his talk was posted by SpaceNews.

McCain, for his part, doesn’t seem inclined to let the matter slide.

“This Committee treats with the utmost seriousness any implication that the Department showed favoritism to a major defense contractor or that efforts have been made to silence members of Congress,” McCain told Carter at the start of Thursday’s DoD posture hearing. “Mr. Secretary, I expect that you will make a full investigation into these statements and take action wherever appropriate.”

SpaceNews.com

Source: Space News

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McCain calls for investigation of fired ULA executive’s controversial comments

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