House Narrowly Defeats Controversial Tactical Rocket Motor Amendment

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House Narrowly Defeats Controversial Tactical Rocket Motor Amendment


Category: Business News

Preventing a shut out of a Norwegian company from the US Air Force missile program.

WASHINGTON —  An attempt to insert an amendment into the House fiscal 2017 defense policy bill that would have required the certification of a second rocket motor supplier for tactical missile programs, if the first supplier is foreign, failed by two votes on the House floor Wednesday.

Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va.; John Delaney, D-Md.; Paul Cook, R-Calif.; John Garamendi, D-Calif.; and Andy Harris, R-Md., submitted an amendment to the policy bill, first reported by Defense News, that would require — in the event a rocket motor is supplied by a foreign company — that tactical missile programs using solid propellant as the primary propulsion be required to have at least two fully certified rocket motor suppliers.

There was shouting on the House floor to keep the vote open as members changed their votes and the totals wobbled back and forth before settling on the final tally of 211 to 213. Near the end of the voting a woman who appeared to be a staffer urged a lawmaker not to vote yes, saying, “It’s an earmark!” And one lawmaker could be heard shouting “Vote no! Vote no!”

The emotional vote Wednesday gets to the heart of the division between House lawmakers who believed the bill would help an ailing rocket motor industrial base in the United States and those who saw it as an earmark targeting one tactical missile program saved by a foreign rocket motor supplier from Norway.

Last year McKinley inserted a measure into the House Armed Services Committee’s defense policy bill without public debate that would “ensure” that every Defense Department tactical missile program that uses solid propellant as the primary propulsion system have at least one rocket motor supplier within the national technology and industrial base.

But the proposed legislation could have shut out a Norwegian company from the US Air Force missile program that it essentially saved. Nammo, a manufacturer of ammunition and missiles, provides the rocket motor for Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), a critical missile within the service and also used by dozens of foreign nations.

Opponents to the proposed policy circulated a memo last year that called it an “earmark” and argued the language had no basis other than a US producer was seeking a political solution to a business problem. The measure identified one area of weapons acquisition and singularly expanded current policy into law benefiting only two domestic rocket motor producers — Orbital ATK, based in West Virginia, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, based in California.

A similar attempt to insert language in the Senate’s version of the 2016 defense policy bill failed, and the House language did not survive in conference committee.

But, according to a memo obtained by Defense News with both Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s logos stamped across the top, the legislation is necessary to help a suffering solid rocket motor industrial base in the US.

One of the roadblocks for those in favor of the amendment was having to strike a balance in supporting NATO allies to foster trade agreements and possible foreign military sales, which is becoming more and more important in a declining budget environment.

Norway’s ambassador wrote both Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member, expressing his concern over the amendment in terms of what it might mean for a long-established defense industrial partnership between Norway and the US. This comes at a time when Norway, for instance, has expressed interest in buying the F-35 joint strike fighter.

Thornberry voted to admit the amendment into the final bill and Smith voted against it.

The insertion of similar language in the Senate bill last year was rejected because it was seen as an attempt to force buying American regardless of quality. Whether the change in language not limiting a second supplier to US companies would cause the Senate to reconsider adding the measure to the defense policy bill this year remains in question.

Source: Defense News