Originally published 7:25 p.m. ET Feb. 12; updated Feb. 13 with comments from the Air Force on implications for the Long Range Strike Bomber program and protest.
WASHINGTON – US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is hopeful the service will be able to move forward with building the Long Range Strike Bomber despite a new Inspector General investigation into a top acquisition official’s failure to report a Northrop Grumman retirement account held by his spouse in his annual public financial disclosure form.
The news that the Air Force has reassigned Richard Lombardi over the financial disclosure issue comes days before the Government Accountability Office is set to rule on a bid protest filed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin over the service’s decision to award the LRS-B Bomber contract to Northrop in October. The timing of the announcement raises questions about implications to the protest decision, due Feb. 16.
James addressed the incident during a breakfast event hosted by the Air Force Association Feb. 12, saying it is too early to tell whether the probe will impact the service’s schedule for the next-generation bomber.
"I hope not, but it is too early to tell," James told reporters after the event. "It is in the hands of the IG and it will be thoroughly reviewed. . . . We will see what happens next."
The Air Force said Lombardi was not involved in the LRS-B competition. After learning of the issue Feb 3, James reassigned Lombardi Feb. 4 to duties outside of the acquisition portfolio and referred the issue to DOD IG, according to spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns. The Air Force settled on a replacement and notified Congress before the public announcement Feb. 11, Karns said.
"Mr. Lombardi was not a member of the LRS-B source selection team, and was not serving as the service acquisition executive during that contract award process," Karns said Feb. 12. "As soon as this became known it was referred to the IG and he was reassigned to duties outside the acquisition portfolio."
Lombardi disclosed the issue voluntarily, Karns said.
From Dec. 1 to Feb. 11, Lombardi served a dual-hatted role as the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, and the service acquisition executive (SAE), who is responsible for all acquisition functions within the service. William LaPlante, who served as SAE during the LRS-B competition, stepped down down to re-join MITRE Corp in November.
Lisa Disbrow, under secretary of the Air Force, has assumed the role of acting SAE, Karns said.
Darlene Costello, a senior acquisition official, will serve as principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and logistics.
Northrop and Boeing declined to comment.
Oriana Pawlk contributed reporting