Congress: Demand the Air Force Release the Bomber Price Before It's Too Late

B-21 Bomber

B-21 concept photo from U.S. Air Force (modified)

“There are only two phases of a program. The first is 'It's too early to tell.' The second: 'It's too late to stop,’” said veteran Pentagon reformer Ernie Fitzgerald.

Because of this, it is troubling that the Air Force is hiding the initial price of the new B-21 stealth bomber. Congressional auditors found that the cost of Pentagon weapon systems grew $469 billion beyond initial estimates. Given the complexity and cost risks inherent to this program, the public deserves to know the baseline contract price of the B-21 program so the Pentagon and the contractors can be held accountable for any cost overruns.

The Air Force has promised to deliver an effective and affordable bomber. But price estimates released by the Air Force for the program have ranged from $33.1 billion to $58.4 billion—an increase of $25 billion, or 76 percent. Publicly releasing the actual contact price is key to oversight of this program and of the rest of our planned nuclear modernization, which is currently projected to cost taxpayers $1 trillion.

The Air Force has resisted releasing the figure, claiming the contract price would allow potential adversaries to identify some of the new plane’s capabilities, like its range and how many weapons it can carry. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), has said this argument is “nonsense” since the program’s budget is unclassified and the Air Force has already released the per-unit cost, drawings of the new bomber, and a list of top-tier suppliers for the program.

In a closed-door 19-7 vote, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee eliminated the Chairman’s requirement to publicly disclose the cost. Tell Congress that you believe the American people need to know the contract price to hold those in charge accountable.

Urge Congress to demand the Air Force release the cost of the B-21 bomber contract.

Recipients

  • Your Senators
  • Your Representative

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Message

Dear [Decision Maker],

Taxpayers deserve to know the price tag of the Air Force's new B-21 stealth bomber.

Congressional auditors found that the cost of Pentagon weapon systems grew $469 billion beyond initial estimates. The B-21's contract value establishes the baseline for costs and affordability.

Given the complexity and cost risks inherent to this program, its public release is key to holding program and contractor officials accountable. This information can be released to the public without jeopardizing national security, and Senator John McCain,the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said that any argument otherwise is "nonsense."

The program's budget is unclassified and the Air Force has already released the per-unit cost, drawings of the new bomber, and a list of top-tier suppliers for the program. Nothing prevents the Air Force from releasing the cost.

Nuclear modernization will cost taxpayers at least $1 trillion. Managing these programs and preventing gross cost overruns depends upon vigilant oversight, including monitoring the contract price and holding those in charge accountable for any cost overruns.

I expect you, as my elected representative, to make sure my tax dollars are spent effectively and efficiently. Please demand the Air Force release the cost of the B-21 stealth bomber to the public.

Sincerely,