WASHINGTON, D.C.--Legislation sponsored by Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett to protect the manufacturing base for ICBM and missile defense solid rocket motors has cleared the Senate.
By unanimous consent late Thursday, the Senate passed the Utah senators' amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill (S. 1390). The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to draft a long-term plan for sustaining the nation's ability to manufacture solid rocket motors for ICBM and missile defense systems. ATK, Utah's largest defense contractor, produces solid rocket motors in northern Utah.
Sen. Hatch said: "Since the successor to the ICBM probably won't be operational until 2030, it is vitally important for the nation to sustain our current solid rocket motor manufacturing infrastructure until new systems are fielded. This legislation will require Defense Secretary Robert Gates to develop a long-term plan to do just that. We haven't crossed the finish line, but we're making substantial progress toward accomplishing the goal of maintaining our solid rocket motor industrial base."
Sen. Bennett said: "I am pleased the Senate unanimously recognized the importance of the ICBM solid rocket industrial base as part of our national defense strategy. We must continue to ensure that our defense strategy is multifaceted, and that includes our defense capabilities here at home as well as overseas."
The amendment is another in a series of steps undertaken by Hatch, Bennett and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) over the past three years to secure the nation's ICBM industrial base. Bishop arranged for a similar provision to be included in the House version of the bill, which will now be reconciled in conference.
Their efforts began to bear fruit earlier this year, when the Air Force opted to allot $43 million in its defense budget request for fiscal year 2010 to build land-based ICBM solid rocket motors. Other hurdles remain, including "reprogramming" existing funds to maintain solid rocket motor production for the remainder of this fiscal year and successfully concluding negotiations between the Air Force and contractors to decide how many solid-rocket motors to produce for the remainder of this fiscal year and for all of next fiscal year.
# # #