Supremely Unsatisfying

The Supreme Court unanimously sent the 20-year-old Navy A-12 stealth bomber case back to a lower court Monday, and vacated the lower court’s ruling against contractors General Dynamics and Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas). It’s good news for the companies, which would have had to repay $1.35 billion to the Navy for work the service never accepted. The Court said the government can’t prevail because invoking a “state secrets” privilege barring the companies from discovering crucial facts deprives them of a chance to make their case. However, that apparently doesn’t mean the companies can charge their comparable losses to the government. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the Court that when state secrets are involved, “The proper remedy is to leave the parties where they were on the day they filed suit” and so “we leave the parties where they are.” He acknowledged that “neither side will be entirely happy with this resolution.” The A-12 was the Navy’s planned successor to the A-6 Intruder carrier-based bomber that the companies were developing under a fixed-price contract. When it went far over budget and fell more than two years behind schedule, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney ordered its termination in January 1991. (SCOTUS decision)