Originally published at 6:47 PM EST on March 8, this story has been updated to reflect specific costs and schedule delays associated with terminating the B-21 contract.
McCain hammered Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the Air Force's deputy assistant secretary for acquisition, on the secrecy surrounding the B-21, which is expected to cost $100 billion over the life of the program. The American people have a right to know precisely how many of their dollars will go toward the bomber, McCain argued.
McCain's criticism took on almost a mocking tone at points, as he slammed Bunch's explanation.
"Frankly I've never heard of this before, that they shouldn't know how much their taxpayer [dollars] are being spent because somebody might connect the dots," McCain said. "What is that all about?"
"It is always possible to terminate a contract — you terminate, you pay fees to terminate, you can rebid it, which of course takes more money and time," James said. "So these things are always possible. We certainly hope it won't come to that."
Breaking the contract would cost the Air Force over $300 million in penalties, Bunch told the subcommittee March 8. The Air Force would then have to re-compete the contract, which would take an additional 24 to 30 months and lead to a commensurate delay in fielding the aircraft, he added.
But James' and Bunch's warnings do not appear to have softened McCain's resolve.
"I don't care what they say. The job of the United States Senate and Armed Services Committee is to authorize. That's our job," McCain told Defense News on March 8 when asked to respond to James' comments. "If she wants to do something unconstitutional, that's her problem, not mine."
Top Air Force officials will continue to brief lawmakers on the B-21 in open and closed sessions on Capitol Hill, Bunch said March 8.
Joe Gould contributed reporting.