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Study Opposes Opening Stealth Contract to Bidding

October 08, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A classified study conducted by an independent think tank has concluded the Air Force should stick with just one prime contractor for the new Stealth bomber, a top official said today.

Based on those results, the Air Force will continue to resist congressional pressure that it eliminate the monopoly on Stealth held by California's Northrop Corp., said James F. McGovern, undersecretary of the Air Force.

The study, performed by the RAND Corp., was delivered to the Air Force last week and was forwarded to Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger earlier this week, McGovern said.

"The results of that were that RAND unequivocally indicated that it was not a program that should be competed at the prime level, and that there is a prudent and reasonable amount of competition going on at the subcontractor level and the sub-sub level and that it ought not to be competed," he said.

The security needs surrounding the program and the relatively small number of airplanes to be built--132--were the chief factors cited by RAND in arguing against the idea of trying to attract a second competing builder at this stage, McGovern said.

"The idea for more competition was a good one, but it just doesn't suit the purpose of this program; it's just not a very good fit in this program. The RAND study is very conclusive on that score."

Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has argued that competition offers the best hope of avoiding some of the problems that have plagued the Air Force's B-1B bomber.

The proposal has put the Air Force in an awkward position--first, because Northrop is now gearing up for the start of production, and second, because the Air Force has successfully used competition to hold down the cost of many of its weaponry programs.

In the case of Stealth, however, "it's not like we're building 1,300 F-15's," McGovern said.

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