Air Force says it will declassify $80 billion bomber project

B-21


A ruling that upheld a major aviation company’s victory over their competition to commence an $80 billion project for America’s new bomber will be declassified and available for release by September.

The Government Accountability Office produced findings involving a rejection of a dispute filed by competitors Lockheed-Martin and Boeing against bid-winner Northrop-Grumman over the contract award, though the information surrounding the project is largely classified, according to Bloomberg.

While the GAO has yet to receive the redacted version of the ruling, the USAF is working on presenting a copy by the end of September.

“We have checked back with the Air Force regularly to see if they have a non-classified copy we can publicly post, but so far they have not provided one,” GAO spokesman Chuck Young told Bloomberg in an e-mail.

USAF acquisition lead Lieutenant General Arnold Bunch said that “we’re actively engaged with the GAO” and are “working it pretty hard right now”, stating that “I don’t think you’ll have to wait a whole lot longer.”

“Within the next month to two months we’ll probably have something out unless something changes,” but Northrop, Boeing and Lockheed Martin still have to review the redacted document, Bunch said.

Releasing a declassified version of the GAO’s decision would be a huge leap towards not only improving government transparency, but would show the general public just how the USAF makes selections on aircraft.

While the new B-21 bomber has had more information released on it than the B-2, the service has refused to release just how much Northrop’s contract really cost, including money set aside for bonus fees.

The grounds for challenging the award of the contract to the B-21 are still classified, but the competing companies have made public statements that allude to the spiraling costs that plagued the last bomber Northrop made, the B-2 Spirit.

“The cost evaluation performed by the government did not properly reward the contractors’ proposals to break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions, or properly evaluate the relative or comparative risk of the competitors’ ability to perform,” Boeing and Lockheed, the world’s two biggest defense contractors, said at the time.

Bunch said that in regards to the B-2, “we should have released more information sooner.”

According to Republican Senator of Arizona John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “The Air Force has already disclosed the per-unit cost of the B-21: $556 million in fiscal 2016 dollars.” In addition, the company produced an artist’s conception of the aircraft and released a list of select suppliers.

The US Air Force has also released a $23.5 billion estimate for the program’s development phase, which may cost as much as $80 billion depending on the actual number of completed bombers.

“We did a very deliberate, thorough, detailed, source selection,” Bunch said. “My hope is that when the GAO report -the redacted version- is released, that our” statements “will be backed up by what the GAO found.”

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