The Air Force is still avoiding a strict deadline for the awarding of a contract for the Long-Range Strike Bomber, but officials told members of the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday they expect the announcement within a “couple months.” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the military deputy in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told lawmakers the contract could be announced within months, but the program is one that “needs to go slow in order to go fast.” The Air Force must work in a “fair and deliberate” way with contractors to make the right decision for a bomber that will be the cornerstone of the military’s nuclear triad for decades, he added. The contract was initially expected in the spring, but has been continually delayed. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the HASC seapower and projection forces panel, said the delay has cost the Air Force hundreds of millions of dollars, and more of the cost will be moved into later years. “I am concerned about the continued delay in the LRS-B award that in my estimation is costing the USAF approximately $100 million a month and will undoubtedly result in reduced LRS-B FY16 authorizations and appropriations,” said Forbes in his opening remarks.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.