The Washington Post

Increase defense competitio­n


The March 1 editorial “An uncompetit­ive defense industry puts the nation at risk” hit the target. Consolidat­ion in the defense industry has resulted in less incentive for innovation, lower industrial capacity and higher prices.

The United States’ space industrial base, however, has seen an exciting renaissanc­e the editorial did not capture. The Post showed the number of expendable launch vehicle manufactur­es dropping from six to two. Yes, Lockheed Martin and Boeing consolidat­ed their efforts to form United Launch Alliance (ULA), a mainstay for defense launches. Launch vehicles from Northrop Grumman resupply the space station. Spacex provides both expendable and reusable rockets. Yet a number of start-ups have emerged.

Rocket Lab has repeated successful launches, and Astra put satellites in orbit. New challenger­s such as ABL, Firefly, Relativity and Virgin Orbit are also launching. And Jeff Bezos, who owns The Post, has Blue Origin.

However, aside from the companies owned by multibilli­onaires, the current price of capital makes it cost-prohibitiv­e for many of these companies to obtain the financing they need to survive in this capital-intensive business.

This problem is exacerbate­d by congressio­nal policies in the National Defense Authorizat­ion Act that exclude all of these companies except ULA and Spacex from competing for most defense launches — and a lack of will among many in the Defense Department and NASA to procure from companies that do not have a long track record. Unless we see a change in these policies, we face a danger that the numbers in The Post’s piece could come true.

Edward Hearst, Danville, Calif. The writer is a former executive at Astra.

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