According to a recent May study from the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon is unable to account for more than 1 million F-35 Joint Strike Fighter spare components worth more than $85 million since 2018.
The F-35 aircraft is the most expensive weapon system in the Department of Defense’s arsenal, and the program’s life cycle is expected to cost more than $1.7 trillion.
The F-35 Joint Program Office of the DOD doesn’t handle or maintain track of the components in its worldwide spare parts pool, which is housed at 50 domestic and overseas non-prime contractor sites, despite the project’s enormous cost.
“The Office of the F-35 Joint Program doesn’t monitor or register these spare parts into a more responsible property database of records that would allow it to record and store actual time modifications to asset records,” the GAO said. “The prime contractors currently keep this data up to date.”
The jet’s spare components range from nuts, screws, and fasteners to engines, tires, and landing gear.
According to the GAO, because certain components are not trackable under an agreement, the contractors “will not submit these parts into the database that the DOD utilizes to track losses as well as disposition.” The JPO is unable to perform the required reporting without this information.
The F-35 Joint Program Office won’t be able to acquire or preserve accountability regarding these spare parts and won’t have the information—such as locations, costs, and quantities—necessary for financial reporting or to guarantee that government interests are protected, according to the GAO. This is because DOD won’t take steps to guarantee that these spare parts are now accountable under a contract.
“The GAO revealed that over one million spare components worth over $85 million had been missing between May 2018 and October 2022 after studying data from only one F-35 prime contractor. Additionally, the F-35 Joint Program Office of the DOD only examined fewer than 2% of those “lost, damaged, or destroyed” components. Since October, the same contractor has neglected to notify the DOD of over 900,000 replacement components worth $66 million.”
The DOD received four suggestions from the GAO to reduce potential losses in the future.
The Pentagon and the JPO were first instructed by the GAO to “take steps to guarantee that every spare component in the global replacement pool is classified correctly and is accountable within a contract.” According to the GAO, the DOD should establish a method for contractors to use in order to report losses and record temporary measures.
Moreover, it was suggested that the Pentagon “review all relevant policies and guidelines for asset accountability and also update when needed to guarantee clarity concerning when an asset is regarded as government-furnished property.”