[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 23 (Tuesday, February 9, 2016)]
[Pages S711-S712]


  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I wish to address an issue of vital 
importance to America's national security. It is the issue of reliable 
rocket launches--launches which the Department of Defense and the 
national intelligence agencies count on on a regular basis to launch 
satellites to keep America safe.
  There is a separate area of launches with NASA involving the civilian 
side, but this morning I want to focus primarily on the Department of 
Defense rocket launches.
  We made a decision about 10 years ago that was wrong. Two companies 
that were competing at that time, Boeing and Lockheed, came forward to 
the Federal Government and said: We have a plan. Instead of our 
companies competing, we will join together. We will become one 
company--Boeing and Lockheed--for this purpose, under the term United 
Launch Alliance. They argued, convincingly at the time, that this was 
the best way to come up with affordable, reliable launches. Well, that 
was true for half of the projection. They were reliable.
  In the last 10 years, the United Launch Alliance has been a reliable 
partner with the Department of Defense in launching satellites and 
other things into space which are critical for our national security. 
But, unfortunately, because they became a monopoly, with no 
competition, they became increasingly more expensive and we had no 
place to turn.
  Recently, there have been new entries in this market in terms of 
launching satellites. One of the most promising is SpaceX. SpaceX, from 
its infancy, has matured into a company that could play an important 
role in the future of satellite launches in the United States. I noted 
this fact, and as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on 
Defense, I did something that doesn't happen around here very often. I 
had a hearing scheduled and brought together the CEOs of United Launch 
Alliance, the traditional partner of the Department of Defense in 
launching satellites, and this new company, SpaceX. I invited the CEOs 
from both companies to sit at the same table and to answer questions 
from the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Then, at the end of 
the hearing, I did something that I thought might be positive and 
constructive. I said to each CEO: I would like each of you to write 10 
questions that should be in the record answered by your partner at the 
table there. If we haven't covered everything to give a fair exposition 
of where this issue stands today, now is your chance.
  That was in January 2014. It was the first time anybody had brought 
together two potentially competing companies and let them plead their 
case before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. But I felt this 
was the best way to give SpaceX a chance to tell its story as a new 
entrant into this competition and for ULA to defend its position.
  We then decided there was another element that was important. United 
Launch Alliance has several engines that can take a satellite into 
space. The most economical one is built by the Russians, the RD-180. I 
happen to believe that it is not in our best security interest to be 
dependent on the Russians to supply us with a rocket engine for vital 
satellites to be launched into space. So I started pushing in the 
Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to put money into a competition 
for an American-made, American-built rocket engine to replace the 
Russian RD-180. For 2 successive years we have appropriated more money 
for this competition than the defense authorizing committee.
  It turns out that we are on the right track, but the timing is 
challenging. What we have been told is that replacing the Russian 
engine with an American-made engine will take up to 5 years. Who is the 
source of that statement? The Secretary of the Air Force. So the 
obvious question is, If we can't cut off the Russian engine today 
without jeopardizing our national security, what should we do? We 
decided in the current appropriations bill to extend the authority to 
the Department of Defense to take bids on rockets launched by the 
Russian engine from ULA through this fiscal year. I thought this was a 
prudent thing to do--to wean ourselves from dependence on Russian-made 
engines--but to do it in a thoughtful, sensible way that gave the 
Department of Defense some options. This request, incidentally, for 
options and flexibility came not just from the Secretary of the Air 
Force, but it came from the Director of National Intelligence as well 
as the Secretary of Defense. They said they needed these options to 
keep America safe.
  That was the state of play until the senior Senator from Arizona 
decided he was going to come to the floor repeatedly and challenge this 
conclusion by the Appropriations subcommittee, then leading to an op-ed 
which he published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. I come to the 
floor this morning to address that op-ed by the senior Senator from 
Arizona. It is titled: ``Congress's Cynical Crony-Capital Gift to 
  The senior Senator from Arizona referenced me by name in this 
article, as he has repeatedly on the floor of the Senate, though many 
would argue that violates the Senate rules. Notwithstanding that 
personal aspect of this, I want to address the issue that is before us.
  Why does the senior Senator from Arizona continue to single me 
out personally? It is because I happen to agree with the Secretary of 
Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Secretary of 
the Air Force about a vital, important national security issue. The 
senior Senator from Arizona disagrees with them.

  The issue is deadly serious, despite the name-calling by my 
colleague. It is about competition for launching defense satellites 
into space. Here are the facts. One company, United Launch Alliance, or 
ULA, held a monopoly for nearly 10 years. The cost of launches rose out 
of control. Today, there is finally an opportunity for competition. A 
new company I mentioned earlier, SpaceX, has entered space launch. They 
are challenging ULA. As I said earlier, in January 2014, I recognized 
this option--this possibility, this opportunity--and held a hearing 
with the CEOs of both companies testifying under oath. The result of 
this competition is that costs are dropping, exactly what we wanted to 
achieve, and the taxpayer is beginning to see savings. However, as I 
mentioned earlier, the ULA rocket most often uses a Russian-built 
rocket engine, the RD-180. After the Russian invasion of Crimea and 
eastern Ukraine, the Department of Defense and Congress agreed it was 
time for us to phase out any dependence on this Russian-made engine and 
to make an American product as soon as possible. I couldn't agree with 
that more.
  Developing and testing a new, American-made rocket takes time--more 
time than I imagined. The Secretary of the Air Force, testifying before 
the committee of the senior Senator from Arizona, estimated that it 
would take to at least 2021 or 2022 until there was an American-made 
rocket engine that can replace the Russian engine that is being used 
today. However, the senior Senator from Arizona doesn't want to wait 
that long to replace the Russian engine. In his Wall Street Journal 
diatribe, he writes that ``we don't need to buy any more.'' And he is 
apparently considering a total ban on the Department of Defense using 
these Russian engines, despite the fact that we have received, in 
writing, from the Secretary of Defense and the Director of

[[Page S712]]

National Intelligence a warning that doing this would in fact create a 
gap which could endanger our national security.
  In May 2015, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National 
Intelligence wrote to the chairman of the defense authorization 
committee, and they shared his goal of replacing this Russian engine. 
But they warned the senior Senator from Arizona that if he followed his 
own plan, it could harm U.S. national security. They were alarmed, in 
this letter, of the proposed cutoff of access to Russian engines before 
an American replacement was ready. Secretary Carter and Director 
Clapper do not want to trade one launch monopoly, ULA, for another 
launch monopoly, SpaceX. They are encouraging and standing for 
competition. They want to keep them competing so they can have lower 
costs and options if one of the companies, for whatever reason, is 
unable to meet its obligations.
  Also, our defense and intelligence satellites must not be dependent 
on one type of rocket. A SpaceX launch failed last summer, and it took 
6 months before they could return to launches. With only one supplier 
of rockets, a crash could stop vital satellite launches for months, 
endangering America's national security.
  The senior Senator from Arizona ignored the arguments being made by 
the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence. 
After all, it is hard for a Senator to argue with the senior national 
security leader, Secretary Carter, whose doctorate is in theoretical 
physics, and it would be unconscionable to call our Nation's highest 
intelligence official--a former Air Force pilot and career civil 
servant--a ``Putin crony.''
  But I take warnings from our top national security experts seriously. 
My Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has been working to address 
these issues the right way, the safe way. Rather than attack fellow 
Senators in the press, the senior Senator from Arizona should face the 
  When the Defense appropriations bill was marked up in June of 2015, 
the bill included a bipartisan provision to allow the Department of 
Defense to conduct full and open competitions for rocket launches for 1 
year. An amendment was offered by the Republican senior Senator from 
the State of South Carolina to strike that provision. But after a full 
debate, he withdrew his amendment when it was clear there was 
bipartisan support for the bill. The provision was modified in 
conference, but the effect of the provision remains the same--to make 
sure that the Department of Defense and the Director of National 
Intelligence have some answer to their concerns about a launch 
  The senior Senator from Arizona has proposed another solution--that 
ULA offer another rocket called the Delta IV, which, of course, is not 
a Russian engine. According to the Pentagon's top weapons buyer and 
ULA, each of those rockets endorsed by the senior Senator from Arizona 
costs about 30 percent more than the Atlas rockets with Russian 
engines. So if that figure is correct, the plan of the senior Senator 
from Arizona requires American taxpayers to pay approximately $1 
billion more in launch costs over the next 6 years. This Senator, who 
comes to the floor frequently telling us that he is such a budget hawk, 
is proposing a plan that will cost us at least $1 billion more over the 
next 6 years. That figure could be higher. His plan could triple the 
cost of launches for some satellites that are too heavy to be launched 
on a single rocket.
  Under the plan of the senior Senator from Arizona, the taxpayers 
would foot the bill for a new government-created monopoly. It is in 
fact a $1 billion windfall and gift to one defense contractor in 
California if we follow the plan of the senior Senator from Arizona, 
and it would also put our national security at risk if there is a 
technical failure.
  If spending $1 billion of taxpayers' money to increase the risk that 
the United States won't be able to launch a satellite to keep track of 
Russia sounds like a counterproductive and questionable idea, you would 
be right. Last year, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee said 
many times that the Defense authorization bill isn't a budget bill. 
Now, as vice chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense--
the subcommittee that has to make the math work--I can say that 
spending an extra $1 billion at this moment in the history of the 
Department of Defense doesn't make sense.
  There is another aspect to this. I don't know if the senior Senator 
from Arizona is going to look into it or attack it as well. When it 
comes to supplying the space station, we are reliant on Russian-made 
engines. If the senior Senator from Arizona wants to cut off access of 
NASA to these Russian-made engines, it will be a dangerous proposal. 
There are a variety of NASA missions ahead that rely on this Atlas 
rocket. These include multiple resupply missions to the International 
Space Station, a mission to take samples from a nearby asteroid, a new 
Mars lander, a probe to study the sun, and several weather satellites.
  If there is the will to ignore the national security concerns of the 
Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence about 
access to space for national security, we had best take care. The 
senior Senator from Arizona will now say that supplying the space 
station is somehow a sellout to Vladimir Putin.
  We have appropriated $448 million to develop all-American engines, 
which is more than the Armed Services Committee has authorized. In a 
few years, we will have real competition for space launches that will 
help lower costs for a long time to come--but only if we listen to our 
top defense and intelligence leaders, who favor a responsible 
transition to the next rocket in the interest of national security and 
oppose the plans put forward by the senior Senator from Arizona.
  One aspect of this article in the Wall Street Journal that troubles 
me the most is the suggestion that I take lightly the adventurism of 
Vladimir Putin and his bloody invasion of Ukraine. I am proud to be the 
cochair of the Ukrainian Caucus with Senator Portman of Ohio. We have a 
large Ukrainian population in my State. I have spoken to them many 
times, and I have visited Ukraine many times to make it clear that I 
detest what Putin has done in invading their country and threatening 
their sovereignty. The irony is the senior Senator from Arizona 
personally invited me to accompany him to Ukraine, where we both 
protested Putin's actions. To suggest my position on these rocket 
engines is somehow a give-in to Putin is shameless and wrong. I think 
my statements--public and otherwise--have made it clear.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.