By Joe Messina
Is the Air Force, a military branch known for its toughness, poised to cower in the face of Elon Musk?
For years now, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s out-of-order priorities have made a fool out of government leaders and taxpayers, who foot the bills for many of his lackluster products.
While Musk has been busy selling and promoting flamethrowers and digging tunnels underground, his reusable rockets have malfunctioned and ballooned in price, while his electric cars have faced more major production failures than I have fingers and have even seemingly malfunctioned to the point of accidents and fatality.
Recently, though, Musk’s antics have finally brought the prospect of legal and contractual violations, which, in a perfect world, would free taxpayers from funding many of his inefficiencies. The problem is that not every government body appears to be on the same page.
Some, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, are doing the right thing.
Most readers are well aware by now that Musk hasn’t gotten away scot-free with what appeared to be his deliberate effort to drive up stock prices by declaring through Twitter that he had the funding secured to take Tesla private. The SEC conducted a swift investigation and ultimately came to terms with a settlement agreement that cost the CEO and the company $20 million apiece, all while the Department of Justice is reportedly finishing up a criminal investigation of its own.
But Musk has done more than fire off a few possibly illegal tweets to show that he doesn’t have the right temperament to serve as a CEO or receive government handouts. Whether the Air Force decides to recognize it or not, he’s also demonstrated it through his actions.
Just weeks after telling The New York Times that he does not believe marijuana is helpful for productivity because “you just sit there like a stone on weed,” Musk smoked marijuana while appearing on the Joe Rogan Show.
Since Section 23.504 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations System reads that “no individual shall be awarded a contract of any dollar value unless that individual agrees not to engage in the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of a controlled substance while performing the contract” — a point that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management emphasizes — SpaceX should be at risk of losing some of its government money.
And yet, although the Air Force awards Musk hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts every year, we have barely heard even a peep out of them.
When pressed by CNBC in early September, an Air Force spokesman said, “We will need time to determine the facts and the appropriate process to handle the situation.”
Well, over a month has gone by and we still haven’t been updated on their findings.
Perhaps that’s because the Air Force, a government entity known for its cronyism and non-competitive bidding processes, never had any intention of looking into it in the first place. Perhaps they’re letting their love for the vision of the charismatic Musk get in the way of what’s right for the country.
The Air Force wouldn’t be the first to do look the other way when dealing with Musk: That’s what it seems NASA did for years after SpaceX’s well-reported 2015 explosion until ultimately giving in earlier this year.
Although initially giving reporters the runaround, telling them that they would eventually release a public report of what went wrong, it appears they provided these responses in the hopes that people would forget with the news cycling shifting, allowing them to shield Musk from bad press without consequence.
To their likely dismay, reporters continued to follow up, causing them to – after two years – state that they are not required to release a report of SpaceX’s failure, even though they did so for comparable failures caused by the company’s competitors.
Is this the crony path that the Air Force is poised to follow?
The SEC and DOJ seem to understand how much damage putting Elon Musk on a pedestal would be to his investors and customers, both in the private and public sectors. But the Air Force is dealing with much more than money. National security is on the line.
Then again, what else should we expect from the military branch that provides non-competitive contracts, leading to equipment delays and costing tens of millions more annually?
Taxpayers should demand better.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com