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Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing June 16, 2016, in Washington, D.C., following his presidential nomination to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash.​

​Air Force Chief of Staff nominee Gen. David Goldfein chose his words carefully on June 16 while explaining why he believes the B-21’s contract award value needs to remain classified. “I believe that if we’re not transparent with the American people on the cost of this weapons system through its elected leadership, then we have a good chance of losing this program,” he told Senate A​​​rmed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during his nomination hearing. In his written response to advanced questions from SASC members, Goldfein said maintaining the classification of the contract value “is critical in order to protect vital information and capabilities of the aircraft,” noting there is a correlation between the cost of an aircraft and its weight. Unlike his recent interactions with top Air Force officials, McCain remained cordial even though he has called for the value of the engineering, manufacturing, and development contract award to be released publicly; USAF has already provided the amount to both defense committees. Earlier in the hearing, McCain noted Goldfein was a member of the “elite group” of pilots whose number of landings and takeoffs do not match. Goldfein was shot down by a Serbian surface-to-air missile during Operation Allied Force, but evaded capture and was rescued. “It’s not a club that many chose to be members of,” said McCain, who was shot down during the Vietnam War. If confirmed, Goldfein, who currently serves as USAF vice chief of staff, will replace Gen. Mark Welsh, who has held the top post since August 2012, after he retires July 1.