Authorizers push for new JSTARS AQ strategy and B-21 transparency

By Courtney Albon / November 29, 2016 at 6:10 PM

Lawmakers are holding the line on a push for the Air Force to award a fixed-price contract for the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System recapitalization effort, but senior House and Senate Armed Services committee aides told reporters on Tuesday that the impending fiscal year 2017 defense policy bill would provide the Pentagon with a loophole.

The Air Force has been holding off on a request for proposals release for the next-generation JSTARS development effort due to lawmakers' calls for the service to award the program under a fixed-price contract rather than cost-plus as it had intended. Aides told reporters during a Nov. 29 briefing on the FY-17 proposed defense policy bill, which the House will likely put to a vote on Friday, that the bill language would still require the service to change its acquisition strategy but that the defense secretary could waive the requirement for national security reasons.

"There's a preference for fixed-price," one staff member noted.

Air Force officials have said a change to the acquisition strategy could cause a three-to-six month delay to the planned RFP release and could push initial operational capability back by one year to FY-24.

The bill retains language in the Senate Armed Services Committee's bill that would require additional oversight of the B-21 bomber program, including "close GAO surveillance of the program."

"The issue for us on the program is getting timely information on whether or not the program remains on track," one aide said. "I think the conference outcome was concerned that a Nunn-McCurdy strategy would be after the fact. . . . It's an important program that we need to keep on track but I think we're all concerned about it hitting those financial targets."