The Top Secret Pentagon Project That Had Its Own Super Bowl Commercial

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A secret U.S. bomber is set to exit the black budget’s shadows and enter the public eye

The U.S. Air Force’s newest bomber is poised to emerge from the shadows of the Pentagon’s so-called black budget.

As soon as this month, the government will pick Northrop Grumman Corp. or a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. team to lead the Long-Range Strike Bomber program. It’s a decision that will expose the multibillion-dollar program to Washington adversaries long before the jet sees combat in the 2020s or beyond.

Black budget projects are used to protect classified and secret government programs, such as advanced weapons systems and intelligence operations, from public disclosure. Once the award is made public, some of the details will also emerge, though not all.

“The budget environment could make this a unique debate in Congress because the overall budget looks very uncertain,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “There will be a lot of questions about funding and how the priority of the LRS-B program is placed above others.”

The contract award may offer a rare glimpse at a major weapons system entering the public spotlight. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is grappling with how much to reveal about the highly classified aircraft, suggesting that she’ll discuss funding and acquisition but not “the crown jewels — the technical capabilities.”

Black projects are so closely held that the military won’t confirm their existence beyond a title in a budget document. The B-2 bomber’s public rollout in 1988 followed years of hush-hush development. And the most-secret U.S. intelligence agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, wasn’t acknowledged until 1992, more than three decades after it was set up.

Full article: The Top Secret Pentagon Project That Had Its Own Super Bowl Commercial (Bloomberg)

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