ULA to trim management by 30%

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The competition heats up: In order to make itself more efficient and competitive, ULA has decided to cut its management by 30%.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno has said ULA must shrink to remain successful under reduced U.S. military budgets and with Elon Musk’s SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) being certified to compete against ULA for national security mission launches. “To achieve that transformation, we are reducing the number of executive positions by 30 percent and offered a voluntary layoff for those interested on the executive leadership team,” said ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye. “It is important for ULA to move forward early in the process with our leadership selections to ensure a seamless transition and our continued focus on mission success.”

This news should be looked at in the context of a proposed Senate bill that requires the Air Force to significantly cut funding to ULA.

Not only would the bill cut an annual $1 billion payment from the Air Force to ULA, it would put severe restrictions on the number of Russian engines ULA could use in its Atlas 5, which in turn will limit the number of launches the Air Force can buy from the company.


  • Cotour

    Is it true that Musk has been significantly subsidized by our government to the tune of about 5 billion dollars?

  • With SpaceX, he has a $1.6 billion contract to supply cargo to ISS. It is not subsidization, because he has to deliver services to get the money. It is a straightforward business deal. Similarly, the SpaceX crew ferrying contract is payment for services delivered, bringing crew to ISS.

    His deal with Tesla, however, is subsidies. He isn’t providing the government any services, merely taking advantage of the Obama administration’s naive belief that anything that says it will help the environment will, and thus must be given a blank check of taxpayer money.

  • Tom Billings

    Once your operation is of sufficient size that it cannot hide from political attention, the degree of government intervention in the economy, especially the technical development portion of it, has reached the point where *not* publicly accepting government money, in some way, marks you as an “Enemy of the State” to many “progressives” I’ve talked to. The immediate assumption about someone refusing both contracts and subsidies, amongst many “progressive” friends, is that “He must be an extremist”.

    In addition, accepting government money is so common that not dong so makes it harder to find investors, because “you don’t have your eye on profits”. Only when it became obvious that Congressional intervention was destroying spaceflight progress did this change with Musk and a few large investors. Even then, once a new group accepts government money, of *any* sort, its established competitors can then turn around and grind the handle of a rumor mill, to say that *every* dime you get is subsidy. Yes, government contracts in 2008 saved SpaceX, financially, but those were real service delivery contracts, not subsidy.

  • geoffc

    The LA Times article was misleading. Tesla and SpaceX got very few direct grants of money. Those would be reasonably objectionable. Also, most of the number quoted are for things spread over 10-20 years. Usually tax breaks, which lots of industries get.

    Also, the EV credits are interesting, since they get paid from other companies, who are required to build EV’s but are not. So instead since Tesla is making only EV’s they have extra credits to sell. Allowing sale of these is a strange model, but whatever, it is how the rules work. So although they get counted, it is not from a government program, it is other companies paying for it.

    As Bob noted, contracts for services should not count. (Development contracts do not count either. NASA paid for the COTS program so that at the end, technology would be developed so they could buy flights and it worked. Then they bought flights in CRS, and soon in CRS-2, and again in CCtCAP/Commerical Crew. Boeing/ULA do not launch Atlas/Delta/SLS for free, they charge to develop the tech, build the vehicles, run the launch site, etc).

    At least one of the $400 million loans has been paid back in full, early.

    So the number cited in the article is click bait, The details are more complex. But when you break it down, they worked within the system as it exists, taking advantage of the same things every company tries to take advantage of, if available.

  • Edward

    Tom wrote, “Yes, government contracts in 2008 saved SpaceX, financially, but those were real service delivery contracts, not subsidy.”

    Not only were they not subsidies, but milestones were required to be met before milestone payments were made. This is analogous to hiring a contractor to work on your house, he gets paid for progress completed. Payments to SpaceX and the other contractors/competitors were for goods or services rendered.

    Kistler had one of these contracts, but was unable to make enough milestones to get paid enough to remain in business. Being awarded the contract does not guarantee payment or the company’s survival.

    Meanwhile, ULA has been receiving actual subsidies, which the Air Force has decided to phase out in order to provide a more level field for competition.

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