The Air Force is “still a year or two away” from “what I would call the downselect decision” for the new Long Range Strike Bomber, Secretary Michael Donley told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Already, “LRS-B contractors are developing and refining their designs in accordance with government requirements,” an Air Force representative told the Daily Report following Donley’s April 23 media event. Donley said a slight downturn in the bomber’s proposed funding in Fiscal 2014 from the level predicted last year is not intended to send a “major message.” He insisted “we’re still committed to the program.” The Air Force has requested about $380 million for the new bomber in Fiscal 2014, said Donley. The funding “grows in the outyears and it remains one of our most important priorities,” he said. The Air Force is developing the bomber’s contract strategy with the Pentagon’s acquisition executive, said Donley. He noted that the program gets “good and appropriate attention” in the new US defense strategic guidance. “We’re stable in how we’re approaching this project; there’ve been no major changes in design or requirements,” he said. The service’s goals “are still on track to have the first article in the mid-20s, to build an inventory of 80 to 100 aircraft” at a base-year cost of $550 million a copy, said Donley.
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.