The Air Force has already provided the value of the B-21 contract award, as well as other details, to both defense committees, despite a provision in the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act that suggests otherwise. The legislation states that no Fiscal 2017 funding will be given for the B-21 engineering, manufacturing, and development program “until the Air Force releases the value of the B-21 EMD contract award made on Oct. 27, 2015, to the congressional defense committees.” However, Maj. Robert Leese, an Air Force spokesman, told Air Force Magazine that after the contract award, “the B-21 program office provided briefs to the committees, their members, and professional staff, detailing the contract award, to include outlining the independent cost estimate and classified contract award value.” Leese said the B-21 program office has been “consistently transparent” with the Congressional defense committees and the Government Accountability Office over the past four years, and has conducted classified briefs to explain the acquisition strategy, funding, and cost estimates.
The relationship between Capitol Hill and the Air Force has been particularly fraught in recent months, with SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hammering Air Force leaders on its relationship with ULA, plans to replace the A-10 with the F-35, and the decision to keep the B-21’s contract value classified. That SASC would include an ultimatum on B-21 funding in its version of the NDAA seems to underscore the tension. However, Leese said the Air Force is aware of the provision, as well as the fact that the pre-markup version of the legislation would have required releasing the contract value to the public. “The action taken by the committee protects vital information and capabilities of the B-21 that could be exploited by our adversaries,” he said.