Anyone who’s served has watched Department of Defense (DoD) contractors screw up everything under the sun and still maintain their contracts. They even typically get paid their bonuses without question or delay despite frequent problems. Now a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) illustrates how bad things can get.
Just a single DoD contractor has lost over one million individual parts to the F-35 fighter jet. Per the report, the government only knows what happened to a teeny-tiny percentage of those parts. As the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) doesn’t independently account for the spare parts put into a pool of parts shared amongst contractors when they are stored at “non-prime contractor facilities.”
This has resulted in the loss of over a million parts at a cost to the American taxpayer of over $85 million since May 2018. With less than 2% of these losses being reported to the JPO, they have also failed to report an additional 900,000+ spare parts losses for another $66 million.
Actuator doors are a $3.2 million chunk of this figure for 34 parts in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone and still have yet to be reported to the JPO.
“Mistakes” like these are the results of using parts pools. Then again, given the simplicity of their nature and easy corruptibility, they are ripe with fraud. In essence, multiple companies have contracts to provide parts help and even maintenance on the F-35 platform. Companies all kick in parts to various warehouses across the globe. These parts are then there whenever they are needed. Everyone knows where they are, and there is a well-kept list of what is on hand.
Yet, when it comes to taking things out, there is little to no oversight. Instead, things are just taken, and they disappear into the ether.
Now, the GAO is pushing for the Pentagon to require parts be accountable under contract and that they report losses. While long overdue, this could also be a case of too little too late. Parts like these can assemble entire jets pretty easily.