(Ken Silva, Headline USA) The Government Accountability Office has found that the Pentagon lost more than 1 million parts over the last five years from its floundering F-35 program, which continues to experience skyrocketing costs and production delays.
“Since May 2018, one F-35 prime contractor incurred losses of over 1 million spare parts totaling over $85 million,” the GAO said in a May 23 audit.
The GAO said the full quantity and value of the missing parts may be “significantly higher” than the 1 million estimate.
That’s because the dollar values of the lost F-35 parts only include what the contractor paid for the assets. This does not include the transportation and overhead costs paid by the Pentagon, according to the GAO.
The GAO attributed the losses to the Pentagon being unable to properly account for the “unique supply chain” of the F-35—an advanced fighter jet designed for stealth and speed.
According to the GAO, the Pentagon pooled its F-35 parts for contractors around the world to access. This is designed to remove logistical barriers “and provide economies of scale” for program participants, the GAO said.
“Rather than owning the spare parts for their aircraft, all program participants have access to the shared global spares pool, which DOD owns,” the GAO explained. “The global spares pool consists of both consumable and repairable spare parts used to maintain or improve the F-35 aircraft.”
The contractors had been responsible for tracking the parts in the pool until 2012, when that responsibility was moved to the Pentagon. But the Pentagon wasn’t prepared for this, according to the GAO.
That lack of preparation has apparently resulted in more than 1 million lost parts.
Meanwhile, the cost of the F-35 program continues to skyrocket. Another, separate GAO report from May 30 said that the F-35 program’s total procurement costs have increased by $13.4 billion since the last cost estimate in 2019.
“This is, in part, due to DOD spreading out aircraft purchases and adding years to its delivery schedule,” the GAO said. “Contractors also continue to have challenges with delivering aircraft and engines on time, but they are working to address these issues.”
The total cost of the F-35 program is now estimated to be roughly $1.7 trillion. This includes the delivery of 215 F-35s to the Air Force over the next three decades.
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.