Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James staunchly defended the Air Force’s acquisition strategy for the B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber, clearly anticipating push-back from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, who has threatened to do what he can to block the cost-plus contract award. “Experience tells us that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to acquisition contracts and strategies, because … we have certainly examples of cost-plus failures, but there also have been cost-plus successes,” said James on Thursday. “Likewise, we have had some successes in fixed-price work, but there’s also been some noteworthy failures …? to include A-12, the Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile, the C-5, the future combat system, and the C-17.” The contract awarded to Northrop Grumman, which the Government Accountability Office upheld following a protest from rival contractor Boeing, uses a “mix of contract types” that were “specifically chosen to capitalize on the advantages” of each, “while limiting the potential risks for cost growth and/or performance issues,” said James. Engineering and design of the new bomber is cost-plus, representing about 30 percent of the total contract amount, while 70 percent is a fixed-price contract, said James. “It’s a shared-risk situation and the bulk of the incentives are geared toward the tail-end of the EMD, which gives the contractor the incentive to go as quickly as possible” to production, she added. (See also: In Defense of Cost-Plus.)
In his final keynote address before retiring as Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force, Roger A. Towberman reflected on the progress of the Space Force and the growth still ahead at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 12, 2023. Watch the video or read the transcript.