By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force said on Thursday it had replaced its acting acquisition chief, Richard Lombardi, after he disclosed that he had failed to report his wife's Northrop Grumman Corp retirement account on his annual financial disclosure form.
The news came days before the U.S. Government Accountability Office is due to rule on a protest filed by Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp against the Air Force's decision in October to award an $80 billion long-range bomber contract to Northrop.
Lombardi was not involved in the bomber competition, an Air Force spokesman said. Lombardi declined comment via a spokesman.
Experts said the incident could spur Boeing to amend its protest. Boeing had no immediate comment.
Northrop told Reuters it had confirmed that Lombardi was not a member of the source selection team that awarded the bomber contract, and remained confident that the Air Force had chosen the best solution to meet its bomber requirements.
Lombardi, a former Air Force officer and long-time public servant, had assumed the role of acting assistant secretary for acquisition and service acquisition executive on Dec. 1 when William LaPlante resigned to take a job in private industry.
Lombardi, who had been the principal deputy to LaPlante, did not participate in the bomber award and was not acting assistant secretary or service acquisition executive at the time of the contract award, said Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Karns.
Air Force Secretary Deborah James removed Lombardi from his acquisition duties on Thursday and reassigned him to another position after learning of his voluntary disclosure, Karns said. She referred the matter to the Pentagon's inspector general.
James named Darlene Costello, a senior official in the Pentagon's acquisition office, to take over Lombardi's duties as principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics. She named Air Force Undersecretary Lisa Disbrow as the acting service acquisition executive, overseeing $40 billion in research, development and procurement programs, he said.
"It is critically important to maintain a high level of public confidence in the integrity of our programs and operations," Karns said.
It was not immediately clear when Lombardi disclosed the issue or how long Lombardi's wife worked for the U.S. weapons maker.
In 2005, another former principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, Darleen Druyun, served nine months in prison after pleading guilty to an ethics violation after discussing a job with Boeing while overseeing its business with the Air Force.
In 2007, another person who held the same job, Charles Riechers, committed suicide while under scrutiny for collecting nearly $27,000 in wages from a contractor while awaiting Senate confirmation.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Muralikumar Anantharaman)