Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is calling for an investigation, after a ULA executive said the company declined to bid on a request for GPS launch services to avoid a “cost shoot out.” ULA CEO Tory Bruno said in a written statement that the “views, positions, and inaccurate statements” made by Brett Tobey, the vice president of engineering, are not aligned with Bruno’s views or the direction of the company. “We welcome competition,” Bruno said. Space News first reported Tobey’s comments, and posted an audio recording of his remarks. McCain has pressed the Air Force to punish ULA for not bidding on what should have been the first competitive national security space launch, but Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said breaking the service’s contract with ULA would end up costing taxpayers “between $700 and $800 million more” than honoring it. Thursday morning, Deputy Underse?cretary of the Air Force for Space Winston Beauchamp noted that companies are free to choose whether to bid. “There’s not a requirement to bid, nor is there a penalty for not bidding,” he said. “While I understand the impulse, and we all wish ULA would have bid, … there’s a lot more coming down the pike, and we think the conditions have been set such that people can be more competitive now.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.