Is it time for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to put up or shut up, to show taxpayers that they’re getting value for the billions of dollars invested in the program so far?
At yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Mike Sullivan from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the “time has come” for the JSF program to meet expectations on performance and schedule. “Significant risks in the program went unaddressed” until recently, and while the program seems to be turning around, scheduling delays and cost risk in technology development are still significant.
Ashton Carter, the Under Secretary for Defense Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics agreed that the projected costs for the program are “unacceptable and unaffordable,” and that the Pentagon is working with contractors to bring costs down.
“A lot of us saw these problems coming,” said Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ).
If there was a key word from the hearing, it was alternatives.
As part of the re-evaluation of the program required by a Nunn-McCurdy cost breach and the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, the Pentagon had to certify that there weren’t alternatives to the JSF program. But that wasn’t enough for many senators on the Committee, and Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) asked Carter to not only explain how the Pentagon will know that they are truly adding discipline to the program to improve cost and schedule performance, but also to explain how the Pentagon will proceed if they are unsuccessful.
What do you think, should we wait another year to see if the JSF program improves, or are more draconian measures needed?