Lockheed Martin and DoD have lost over 1 million F-35 parts, GAO finds

According to an audit from the US GAO, over 1 million F-35 spare parts have been lost over the last five years worth around $85 million.
Christopher McFadden
The missing parts are worth around $85 million.


The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the US Department of Defense (DoD) has lost track of about 1 million F-35 spare parts worth $85 million. The missing parts have all gone missing over nearly five years. According to the GAO, the government doesn’t have its system tracking those parts; officials may not know how many spare parts are in the global spares pool, where they are, or their total value.

As a result, the document reads, “the full quantity and value of these [lost] spare parts may be significantly higher” than the 1 million tallies determined by the main contractor, Lockheed Martin.

The F-35 program is a multinational effort involving countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, Canada, Israel, Japan, and South Korea. The program has a distinctive approach to managing spare parts, as identified by the GAO. A global pool of spare parts is available to all program participants worldwide. The pool comprises everything from engines, tires, landing gear, support equipment, bolts, and screws. The Department of Defense owns these parts until they are installed on a fighter.

According to the report, the problem appears to be a failure of accountability about ownership of the spare parts, as well as a lack of a reliable system to track said parts. In other words, the F-35 program suffers from a severe lack of oversight into how contractors in the supply chain handle components critical to the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has announced that it is collaborating with the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and the Defense Contract Management Agency to ensure that they possess the necessary documentation to facilitate the disposal of components deemed "excess, obsolete, or unserviceable" by their personnel. “Lockheed Martin manages F-35 spare part inventory in compliance with contract requirements,” the company told Defense News. “We continue to partner with the Joint Program Office to increase insight into spare part availability and support fleet readiness,” they added.

According to an email from the F-35 program office to Defense News, they acknowledge the recommendations by GAO to enhance spare parts tracking. However, they also stated that they know the location of most F-35 spare parts in the global supply chain. The Defense Department office cited the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement rules, which state that programs should aim for 95% accuracy in their recorded inventories. They also confirmed that the F-35 program had surpassed this goal.

“At this time, our error rate is around 1%,” the program office said. “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,” they added.

According to the JPO, spare parts for the F-35 are monitored using a non-government system. However, efforts are underway to shift this data to a government system in collaboration with the industry. The recent report by GAO auditors suggests that William LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, should ensure that all spare F-35 parts across the globe are accurately categorized and accounted for under a contract. Additionally, policies should be updated to clarify when parts are classified as government-furnished property.

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