Air Force Official Removed for Not Disclosing Northrop Link

  • Acting weapons buyer reassigned over spouse's retirement fund
  • Decision comes before ruling on challenge to bomber award

The U.S. Air Force has reassigned its acting weapons buyer to other duties after he revealed that he failed to list “a Northrop Grumman retirement account held by his spouse” on his annual disclosure form, the service said in a statement.

The Air Force decision on Richard Lombardi came days before the Feb. 16 deadline for the Government Accountability Office to rule on whether to overturn the service’s decision in October to award Northrop Grumman Corp. its new bomber, a program valued at as much as $80 billion. Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., which had a joint bid for the project, protested the award.

Lombardi wasn’t on the team that selected Northrop for the bomber contract and wasn’t serving as the senior acquisition executive during the contract award process, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Karns, an Air Force spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Still, the service may have been seeking to preempt an embarrassing leak of Lombardi’s Northrop connection.

‘Not Relevant’

GAO spokesman Chuck Young said in an e-mail that the agency wasn’t notified of the Air Force action “and it is not relevant to how we consider a bid protest; we have not examined those issues because they are not before us.”

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James reassigned Lombardi to other duties after his “voluntary disclosure” and referred the matter to the Defense Department’s inspector general, according to the e-mailed statement. Lee named Darlene Costello, a senior acquisition officer, to assume Costello’s acquisition role.

Karns said James learned about Lombardi’s failure to disclose the Northrop account on Feb. 3 and made her decision the next day. Announcement of the decision was delayed for a week to notify Congress and find a successor, Karns said.

Air Force officials have been especially sensitive to controversies over acquisition since a scandal involving a Boeing aerial tanker in 2003.

An Air Force official, Darleen Druyun, was convicted along with Boeing’s chief financial officer of violating conflict of interest laws during negotiations over the tanker program. Druyun was sentenced in October 2004 to nine months in prison.

Lombardi had been acting weapons buyer since November after the departure of William LaPlante. Lombardi joined the Air Force in October 1980 as a program management analyst at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

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