After a 100-day review, the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday denied Boeing’s protest of the Air Force’s award of the $60 billion Long-Range Strike Bomber contract to Northrop Grumman, but Boeing said it’s reviewing its legal options to press on. In a statement from Ralph White, GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law, the GAO found “no basis to sustain or uphold the protest.” The Air Force’s “technical evaluation, and the evaluation of costs, was reasonable, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, and in accordance with procurement laws and regulations.” Boeing had argued the process was “fundamentally flawed” and that USAF didn’t properly account for the manufacturing efficiencies of Boeing and its partner, Lockheed Martin. The GAO said the details of “Boeing’s challenges, and GAO’s decision resolving them,” are classified and “not available for release.” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a press release that the service looks forward to “proceeding with the development and fielding of this critical weapon system,” which she said is a vital requirement of “the joint community.” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said “our nation needs this capability” to replace aging bombers and stay ahead of the technology of potential adversaries. (See also Launching the New Bomber from the January issue of Air Force Magazine.)
More than 100 B-21s will be needed if the nation is to avoid creating a high demand/low capacity capability, panelists said on a Hudson Institute webinar. The B-21's flexibility, stealth, range and payload will be in high demand for a wide range of missions, both traditional and new.