$80 billion bomber gets early praise from Pentagon’s inspector general

$80 billion bomber gets early praise from Pentagon’s inspector general
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The Pentagon’s inspector general praised the deal for a new $80 billion B-21 program that has drawn criticism from lawmakers for its secrecy, according to an audit released Monday.

An initial assessment of the deal, made about a month before the Air Force awarded the contract for the bomber to Northrop Grumman, found the company would be able to offer significant cost advantages, Bloomberg reported.

The Air Force awarded the contract to build the B-21 to Northrop Grumman in October 2015, to be fielded in the mid 2020s. Little information was available at the time about the contracting process or the bomber itself.

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The Pentagon ultimately settled on contractor Northrop Grumman over a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The report praised the choice, saying that Northrop Grumman offered “significantly lowered proposed prices,” creating a “near-insurmountable obstacle” for Boeing to overcome in landing the deal.

The new report also disclosed limited details about the B-21’s expected capabilities. The bomber will be capable of carrying out unmanned operations. 

The inspector general’s report was highly redacted, Bloomberg reported, making it difficult to determine if the report only disclosed positive conclusions.

In 2016, the Air Force released a basic image of the bomber and later cost goals per aircraft and the names of top subcontractors. However, lawmakers expressed frustration over the limited information.

The inspector general, in May, began a review of whether the Air Force was being too secretive with the basic information for its new B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber.