The Air Force is using its B-21 acquisition process as an example for future programs because of its confidence in its decision, one that was backed up in a heavily redacted Government Accountability Office decision released this week. The service in October 2015 awarded the contract to build the new long-range strike bomber to Northrop Grumman, immediately drawing a protest from Boeing who said the process was “fundamentally flawed.” The GAO denied the protest in February, saying that Northrop had “significant” advantages and lower proposed prices. Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s military deputy for acquisition, said Wednesday that from the outset the Air Force had done a “deliberate, fair, and thorough evaluation” of the proposals and was confident the GAO would also come to that conclusion. The GAO’s decision was “pretty much … what we said.” The Air Force “stuck to our guns and [followed] a deliberate process,” which the decision confirmed. The Air Force is now taking lessons it has learned from the B-21 process and putting it into other programs. The GAO report outlines that both the bids came in at a lower cost point than the service expected. The Air Force has budgeted from its service cost position, not at contract value. “We structure a contract that had incentives on cost control and incentives on performance,” he said.
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.