Key U.S. lawmaker: important to ensure U.S. bomber program succeeds

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 02, 2015 12:49 PM

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Monday underscored the importance of ensuring that a new $80-billion U.S. Air Force bomber program be well managed from a cost perspective and produce a superior weapons system.

"This is an important program and it’s important to make it a success substantively, and also from an acquisition standpoint," Republican U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry told Reuters after an event hosted by the Defense One media outlet.

Thornberry said Air Force officials would brief Congress about the reasoning behind last week's selection of Northrop Grumman Corp to build the next-generation long-range strike bomber, instead of a Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp team, but gave no specific date for a briefing.

"It's going to get lots of attention," Thornberry said, referring to the contract award, adding that he planned to look into it further next week.

Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Representative Randy Forbes, who heads the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces, have also requested a briefing on the contract award, according to congressional aides.

Lawmakers are keen to understand the Air Force's decision to use a cost-plus type contract for the development phase of the program, worried that it could leave the Air Force vulnerable to potential cost increases in the future.

Cost-plus contracts allow contractors to charge any overruns to the government, while fixed-price type contracts limit that liability.

Boeing on Friday said it would decide whether to protest the contract award in coming days after receiving a briefing by the U.S. Air Force about the decision.

Under federal law, companies have 10 days after an agency debrief to file with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress that rules on federal contract protests. The GAO then has 100 days to evaluate the case.

The Air Force on Tuesday selected Northrop, maker of the stealthy B-2 bomber, to develop and build the new bomber.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Christian Plumb)