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One way Trump, House conservatives fighting space-based Crony Capitalism

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President Donald J. Trump and House conservatives have worked for more than nine months to drain the swamp in our nation’s capital.

Why stop at Washington when Congress can work together with the president to bring an end to crony capitalism, even in outer space?

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket launch company, seems to be vying for more control over taxpayer-funded rocket launch services, which is interesting since the company broke a government-created monopoly just years before. Per the Parabolic Arc, Section 1615 of this year’s National Defense Authorization Agreement – a provision regarding launch systems – would limit the U.S. Air Force to new rocket engines and modifications to existing launch vehicles.

If Section 1615 goes into effect, it may mean that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and the very expensive Delta IV are the only launch systems available for use.

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By default, the Falcon 9 will be chosen when possible, while the costly Delta IV will receive the National Security Space missions that SpaceX is incapable of meeting.

What does this mean for you, the U.S. taxpayer? It seems like lower quality security at higher costs, all to please just one or two companies.

The White House “strongly objects” to Section 1615. The administration says that by “ignoring key recommendations of the committee’s independent panel of experts,” this provision “would restrict development of new space launch systems, including those whose development is significantly funded by industry,” which will “increase taxpayer costs by several billions of dollars through FY 2027” and cause “delays in transitioning from Russian engines.”

Here’s the great news: it is not just the White House that objects to this crony capitalist bill.

Twenty House members sent a letter to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis earlier this year asking the Department of Defense to maintain the current Air Force plan for the development of new launch vehicles and launch vehicle systems. The group asserted that “investing in the entire launch system through government and industry cost-share partnerships — rather than a specific component — is the fastest, safest, and most affordable way for the taxpayer to achieve” dependence from Russia.

Even the Air Force is opposed to this bill.

The Department of the Air Force sent a letter to the House Armed Services Committee stating, “Section 1615 appears to force the Department to end the more than $300M investment in the industry-developed systems and instead use a modernized Delta IV launch vehicle and or the Falcon 9. United Launch Alliance has publicly stated they are phasing out the Delta IV line and that the launch vehicle is at least 30 percent more costly than other launch vehicles. Forcing ULA to maintain the Delta IV product line would make the company less competitive and fully dependent upon the government for funding.”

Next week, the House Armed Services Committee is expected to fine-tune the NDAA, including any potential changes to Section 1615.

The good news is that Oct. 12, House leaders appointed Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who appears to be strongly opposed to restricting the development of new launch systems, as well as representatives Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Michael H. Coffman (R-Colo.), who have called out policymaking that may have advanced SpaceX’s special interests in the past.

The Armed Services Conference Committee is moving rapidly.

Tuesday, The Hill reported “the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees expressed confidence Wednesday that they will soon finish work on the annual defense policy bill, with Sen. John S. McCain III (R-Ariz.) going so far as to say it may be done in ‘days.’”

If we’re going to stop this crony capitalist takeover of our space missions, the time to act is now.

House conservatives,  our president, and even the military are opposed to SpaceX’s taxpayer-funded takeover of the entire rocket launch industry, it is a no-brainer that the American people should too. We need healthy competition to produce better results for our country, and crony capitalism like this threatens to destroy those results.

Any principled member of Congress that believes in free markets and better results for our country would be wise to vote no on this bill.

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