GAO: An F-35 prime contractor lost over 1 million spare parts valued at $85 million

Joint Program Office says it knows where ‘vast majority’ of parts are located

Of about a million lost F-35 parts worth $85 million, the Department of Defense (DOD) reviewed the circumstances surrounding just 2% of identified losses since 2018, the GAO said in a new report.

The DOD needs to do a better job tracking spare parts for the F-35, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in findings released this week.

While the DOD owns certain F-35 spare parts that contractors manage, the department does not necessarily track or oversee all of those parts, the GAO said.

This stems at least in part from a failure of the DOD and contractors to agree on whether parts are government-furnished property.

This lack of agreement affects how the DOD processes lost parts, the GAO said it found.

Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney, the F-35 program’s two prime contractors, are responsible for developing, repairing, and managing these spare parts, the GAO said.

“The Department of Defense’s F-35 Joint Program Office does not oversee or account for spare parts in its global spares pool that have been accepted and received by the government and are located at non-prime contractor facilities,” the GAO said. “The F-35 Joint Program Office does not track or enter these spare parts into an accountable property system of record that would enable it to capture and store real-time changes to property records. Currently, the prime contractors maintain this information.”

The GAO recommended that the DOD ensure that all spare parts are categorized appropriately and are accountable under a contract.

The GAO is also recommending that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, with the Under Secretary of Defense, review and update guidance and policies for asset accountability.

And the GAO noted that the DOD is on board with the recommendations.

“The F‐35 Joint Program Office (JPO) appreciates the Government Accountability Office’s independent look into our program and the recommendations provided,” the JPO said in a statement to this news outlet. “Although the F-35 JPO concurs with the recommendations it is important for the American people and our global partners to understand that we know where the vast majority of F-35 spare parts are in the global supply chain.

“At this time, our error rate is around 1%,” the office added, “and while this is considered much better than the government goal of 5%, we will continue to work with the services and our industry partners to improve spare parts accountability and drive readiness for our warfighters.”

The GAO said that since May 2018, one F-35 prime contractor incurred losses of over 1 million spare parts valued at over $85 million, of which less than 2% were reviewed by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

And as of October 2022, the same prime contractor has not reported over 900,000 spare parts valued at over $66 million to the F-35 Joint Program Office for review, the GAO also said.

The F-35 Joint Program Office’s Hybrid Product Support Integrator moved to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the spring of 2022.

F-35 representation at Wright-Patterson was expected to approach 400 people by mid-2022, Laura Seal, public affairs lead for the office, told the Dayton Daily News last year.

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