Dangerous Idea: Senator Proposes Extension of U.S. Reliance on Russian Rockets
As we at CFIF have recently detailed, the U.S. simply must end military and space program purchases of Russian rocket engines.
As America’s military leaders confirm, Russia remains perhaps our foremost global threat, and continuing to subsidize its defense industry with U.S. taxpayer dollars only undermines global security by rewarding its aggressive behavior. Additionally, rogue nations like Iran remain prime beneficiaries of Russian rocketry and its ongoing technological advances, and continuing support for Russian rocketry comes at the expense of our own domestic rocket industry.
With those concerns in mind, and following Russian aggression against Ukraine, Congress rightly imposed a phaseout of future U.S. purchase of Russian rocket engines in two consecutive National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs). Unfortunately, some in Congress seek to reverse that phaseout and hope to to spend $540 million or more on at least 18 new Russian RD-180 engines.
And now, Senator Bill Nelson (D – Florida) has introduced an amendment to extend U.S. reliance upon Russian rocketry to 2023.
Although CFIF has had its well-known disagreements with Senator John McCain (R – Arizona) over the years, he is the last person whose devotion to national security or fiscal responsibility can be questioned. And on this issue, Sen. McCain remains unequivocal:
Today, we have two space launch providers – ULA and SpaceX – that, no matter what happens with the Russian RD-180, will be able to provide fully redundant capabilities with ULS’s Delta IV and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and eventually, the Falcon heavy space launch vehicles. There will be no credibility gap. The Atlas V is not going anywhere anytime soon.”
And in response to Sen. Nelson’s proposed amendment, Sen. McCain was equally cogent:
This amendment, which is the largest subsidy of the Russian military industrial base proposed since the invasion of Ukraine, is the worst proposal yet from ULA and its Congressional allies. In an apparent effort to further dependence on Russia for access to space, this amendment exceeds the Administration’s request for 18 Russian rocket engines and provides taxpayer subsidy for the purchase of an unlimited number of Russian engines.”
We cannot afford to neglect our own thriving space industry to the benefit of Russia, particularly on the backs of U.S. taxpayers. Senator Nelson’s misguided proposed amendment exceeds any request from the U.S. Department of Defense, and would only extend reliance upon Russia’s RD-180 well into the 2020s (if not longer). CFIF therefore urges Senators to oppose any reversal of the current phaseout of U.S. future purchase of Russian rocket engines in the NDAA, including Sen. Nelson’s amendment.