WASHINGTON — The Air Force's secretive B-21 bomber took a hit in the fiscal 2017 omnibus spending bill, with congressional appropriators stripping about $20 million from the program, budget documents show.
Although the service requested $1.358 billion to fund research and development activities related to the B-21 Raider, the omnibus funding bill would only fund $1.338 billion. Budget documents attribute that cut to "forward financing."
The documents cited only spell out publicly releasable changes between the president's 2017 request and the omnibus spending bill, which was agreed to Monday by a bipartisan group of appropriators but has not yet been passed by Congress. It does not contain information on classified Pentagon budget items, which likely also includes spending for the bomber.
The omnibus incorporates several provisions meant to give Congress further oversight over the program. First, it calls for the Defense Department's inspector general to evaluate the program, formerly known as the Long Range Strike Bomber. In addition, it designates the B-21 a "congressional special interest item," which gives lawmakers more control over "transfer of funds and prior approval reprogramming procedures."
Northrop Grumman was chosen in 2015 to manufacture the B-21, defeating a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team. The Air Force has not disclosed the total value of the contract, maintaining that the information would give adversaries too much insight into the program. However, the service has projected the B-21 will cost that $550 million per plane.
Although the service has kept details about the program under wraps, it disclosed in March that the Raider had recently wrapped up its preliminary design review.
"It's making great progress, and we’re pleased with the way it’s headed," Gen. Stephen Wilson, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, told a House panel then.