WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James on Friday said it was too early to tell if a Pentagon investigation into the behavior of a former senior acquisition official would affect the timetable for an $80 billion bomber program awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp in October.
James on Thursday announced that she had replaced Richard Lombardi, the Air Force's acting acquisition chief, after he voluntarily disclosed he had failed to report a Northrop retirement account held by his wife on his annual financial disclosure form.
James told reporters the matter was under investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general office. She said the Air Force's own investigation showed Lombardi was not involved in the source selection process for the bomber contract and he was not the service acquisition executive at that time.
James said she hoped the incident did not further delay the Long-Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B program, which was halted in November after Boeing Co filed its protest. A supplemental protest could delay work on the program for an additional 100 days.
She declined to say if the Lombardi revelation could provide grounds for Boeing to amend its challenge.
"We'll see what happens next," James said after a breakfast hosted by the Air Force Association.
The Government Acountability Office, which is due to rule on Boeing's protest on Tuesday, said it could not speculate on what actions the parties to the protest might consider.
Boeing has not commented on the matter. Lockheed, a subcontractor to Boeing on the losing bid, referred all questions to Boeing.
Northrop on Thursday said it was clear that Lombardi was not involved in the source selection and the company remained convinced that the Air Force had chosen the best option to meet its requirements for a new long-range strike bomber.
James said senior officials were required to fill out financial disclosure forms annually, including information about their assets, and those of their spouses and children under the age of 18. It was not immediately clear when Lombardi's wife worked for Northrop.
James said she removed Lombardi from his acquisition duties on Feb. 4, a day after learning about his voluntary disclosure.
Lombardi, a former Air Force officer and long-time public servant, assumed the role of acting assistant secretary for acquisition and service acquisition executive on Dec. 1 when William LaPlante resigned to take a job in private industry. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bill Trott)