B-2 Bomber:

Cost and Operational Issues

NSIAD-97-181: Published: Aug 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1997.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the B-2 bomber, focusing on the current status of cost and operational issues.

GAO noted that: (1) the total cost of the B-2 appears to have stabilized; (2) the Air Force has reported that the total estimated B-2 acquisition costs (development, procurement, and military construction) decreased from $44,946 million in early 1995 to $44,754 million in early 1997; (3) the estimated cost declined even though Congress added new requirements to the B-2 program and provided additional funds of $734 million in fiscal years 1995, 1996, and 1997; (4) Air Force officials advised GAO that the $44,754 million in cost reported to Congress was understated by $89 million; (5) they said that the impact of the understatement would be that two of the test aircraft would not be fully upgraded to block 30, making them less than fully capable; (6) through fiscal year 1997, Congress appropriated funds for about 96 percent of the estimated total cost of $44,754 million; (7) although the cost estimate has not changed substantially since 1995, costs could increase if: (a) the flight test program is extended beyond March 1998; (b) more performance deficiencies than predicted are identified during the remaining portions of the acquisition program; and (c) unplanned development and procurement activities become necessary to better maintain the low-observable features of the B-2s; (8) the Air Force declared on April 1, 1997, that the B-2s in an interim configuration had achieved initial operational capability; (9) however, the Air Force decided it was unrealistic to plan on deploying the interim aircraft to forward operating locations because of difficulties being experienced in maintaining low-observable characteristics at the B-2's main operating base; and (10) the Air Force is reviewing specific B-2 deployment requirements and working to resolve deployment-related problems by the time the B-2s are scheduled to be fully capable in 1999.

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