A longtime senior official in the Air Force has been removed from his job by the service secretary after he disclosed that he had not reported his wife’s ties to the defense contractor Northrop Grumman before he was selected to be one of the service’s senior weapons buyers.
Richard W. Lombardi was removed as the principal deputy assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition by Air Force Secretary Deborah James, said Lt. Col. Christopher Karns, an Air Force spokesman. James referred the case to the Defense Department Inspector General for investigation last week, and the service announced the move Thursday night after selecting a replacement and notifying Congress.
Lombardi, who had served as acting acquisitions chief since December, was reassigned as a special assistant to Acting Air Force Undersecretary Lisa Disbrow in an “invisible wounds initiative.” It is not clear what his future in the Air Force may be after the inspector general reviews his case. He self-reported that he had not disclosed his wife’s Northrop Grumman retirement account on his annual public financial disclosure form, Karns said.
“Rightfully so, the Air Force places a tremendous emphasis on accountability and professional responsibility,” Karns said.
Lombardi was replaced by Darlene Costello, another senior acquisition official in the Air Force.
The issue arises at a particularly complicated time for the Air Force. Northrop Grumman last year won the estimated $80 billion contract for the service’s planned Long Range Strike Bomber, which is expected to eventually replace the B-52 Stratofortress and other aging bombers in the Air Force fleet. Northrop Grumman’s main competition in the highly secretive program, Boeing, filed a protest afterward with the Government Accountability Office that is expected to receive a response in coming days.
Lombardi was not a part of the team that selected Northrop Grumman’s design for the new bomber, Karns said Friday. But he did serve as a top weapons buyer for the Air Force since May 2014. Lombardi previously served from September 2012 to April 2014 as the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for acquisition integration in Washington and from October 2008 to August 2012 in senior civilian positions at Hanscomb Air Force Base in Massachusetts.
The Air Force has several other large contracts with Northrop Grumman, including for its $10 billion RQ-4 Global Hawk program. It provides high-altitude unmanned surveillance, and is expected to eventually replace the U-2 spy aircraft, an aging plane made by Lockheed Martin.
Randy Belote, a spokeman for Northrop Grumman, referred comment on Lombardi’s situation to the Air Force. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department inspector general, Bridget Serchak, declined to comment. So did a spokesman for Boeing, Todd Blecher.