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Elon Musk Isn’t Backing Off Some Of His Most Serious Accusations Against The Air Force

June 6, 2014

Elon Musk Isn’t Backing Off Some Of His Most Serious Accusations Against The Air Force – June 05, 2014 at 11:40PM

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Photo Credit SpaceX Posted on AmericaSpace

Two weeks ago, SpaceX founder Elon Musk called out a former Air Force procurement official on Twitter for taking a job at a company that made components for SpaceX’s main competitor, Rocketdyne. On Wednesday, SpaceX mentioned that same official in a chronology of events it submitted in its lawsuit against the Air Force.

In that federal lawsuit, SpaceX accuses the Air Force of awarding 36 launch contracts to United Launch Alliance — which Rocketdyne makes rockets for — without a competitive bidding process.

On Twitter, Musk suggested Air Force program executive officer for space launch Scott Correll took the job at Rocketdyne as a quid pro quo for awarding the launch contracts to the company:

V likely AF official Correll was told by ULA/Rocketdyne that a rich VP job was his if he gave them a sole source contract

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 23, 2014


This is a very serious accusation that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly. It’s illegal for officials who oversee and award contracts to negotiate employment with a company that’s bidding on one of those contracts. For bidders, offering employment in this manner is tantamount to bribery. People have gone to jail for this sort of thing before, including Air Force officials. 

The SpaceX filing is more carefully worded than Musk’s tweet. Since it’s intended to give the court a factual baseline for dealing with the issues at hand, it lacks the imputations of bad faith or even criminality that Musk’s tweets carried. The lawyers caution that it "should not be considered a list of stipulated facts or admissions by any party."

Still, SpaceX’s legal team raises the issue of the timing of Correll’s employment:

Screen Shot 2014 06 05 at 3.14.20 PM

This description of Correll as "negotiator of the block buy arrangement" differs from language in SpaceX’s initial complaint against the government, which describes him more formally as "the former Program Executive Officer for the [Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle] program."

The chronology includes U.S. government attorneys’ version of events as well. They mention Correll as one of the officials who worked closely on the contracts (ASD stands for acquisition strategies document, while an ADM is an acquisition decision memorandum):

 Screen Shot 2014 06 05 at 3.15.44 PM

Again, this doesn’t necessarily prove that anything inappropriate is happening. Correll updated his LinkedIn profile nearly a year after the contracts were awarded to ULA. When reached for comment last week, the Air Force told Business Insider that "Mr. Correll’s employment was reviewed by the General Counsel’s office and found to be permissible under applicable ethics guidelines."

In an email to Business Insider, ULA spokesperson Jessica Rye emphasized that Rocketdyne is "one of hundreds of ULA suppliers," and that "Mr. Correll is not and has never been an employee of ULA."

Still, Wednesdays’s filing shows that SpaceX won’t let the issue of Correll’s employment drop. The company believes that the entire procurement process was stacked against it. SpaceX also seems to believe that, even down to the level of individual officials, the U.S. government refused to deal with what SpaceX believes to be the new realities of the U.S. aerospace industry.

We have contacted Correll to give him a chance to comment and will update this post if we hear back.

SEE ALSO: This legal footnote explains the high stakes of SpaceX’s lawsuit against the Air Force

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