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Over the past year, no one has backstabbed President Donald J. Trump harder than SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Yet, this week, the Republican-controlled Senate may be poised to grant this political grandstander a near monopoly over the nation’s space launches.
Less than a week before the November election, Musk, a maxed-out Hillary Clinton donor, told CNBC that Donald Trump “doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.” When his candidate lost, he hitched a ride on the Trump train and joined the president’s advisory councils. But then Musk proceeded to publicly denounce the president’s immigration order and, when the White House exited the disastrous Paris Agreement that benefitted Musk’s big, subsidized businesses instead of American families, he left the president’s advisory councils in dramatic public fashion.
Elon Musk has always been a two-faced manipulator. Last week, former Reagan staffer Peter Ferrara noted in the Daily Caller that, “Since 2003, political chameleon Musk has contributed $258,350 to Democrats and $261,300 to Republicans … Musk was a contributor this past election season to Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, besides contributing to Hillary to the max.”
Musk is a robber baron, not a free market visionary. He needs to kiss up to federal and state officials from both parties, because without them, his companies would be bankrupt. That is why Musk has received $5 billion in government subsidies and 85 percent of SpaceX’s contracts come directly from the government.
Although Musk’s shady past is of no secret to anyone, John McCain and the rest of the so-called conservatives in the Senate may give SpaceX the biggest ride it’s ever received on the taxpayer gravy train. Sections 1612 and 1615 of the FY 2018 NDAA, which will likely receive a vote this week, will stop the Air Force from funding new launch vehicles and prohibit the Pentagon from procuring satellite services from foreign entities.
With these two provisions, Congress is trying to use the mainstream media’s infatuation with Russia to nearly bar Musk’s competition from remaining in the marketplace. Today, the three launch vehicles certified by the Air Force are the Falcon 9, produced by SpaceX, and the Delta IV and Atlas V, both made by the United Launch Alliance (ULA). The Delta IV is being retired, and although the Atlas V has historically been the most reliable in the business, it too is going to be retired soon because of Congress’ distaste for its use of Russian rocket engines on the first stage of launch.
To appease the anti-Russia crowd, while ensuring there is enough competition to protect US security, the Department of Defense enacted private-public partnerships with both Aerojet Rocketdyne and ULA/Blue Origin to create new, American-made engines. Although they will be ready to go soon, Musk’s Washington army, led by heavy Musk donation recipient John McCain, is not happy with the Pentagon because they want SpaceX to be the sole provider. In fact, McCain already tried unsuccessfully to stop SpaceX’s competition earlier this year and last year.
But creating new engines is not enough, because they will not be very compatible with the other launch vehicles. Musk will have the marked locked around his thumb because he will be the only cost-effective option left. That’s why Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall stated that, “simply replacing the RD-180 with a new engine will not deliver the performance of the current design.”
Fearing Russian-made goods is not an excuse to give one company full control of American space flight. If Congress wants to give into Russia fear mongering and ban the use of Russian rocket engines, it needs to at least take the right steps to ensure competition can still flourish and America’s access to space remains protected.
The Trump administration strongly opposes these new Musk giveaways. It especially dislikes Section 1615, which it says “limits domestic competition, which will increase taxpayer costs by several billions of dollars through FY 2027 and stifle innovation,” all while “ignoring key recommendations of the Committee’s independent panel of experts, who proposed broad funding at the launch-system level.”
The Trump administration is right – protecting our national security is far more important than padding the pockets of a political chameleon. This week, Republicans in the Senate should do what’s principled and remove these sections from the NDAA. Passing the NDAA as-is would be an insult to not only the president, but also the free market principles the Republicans in Congress are said to espouse.