F-35 Sustainment:Enhanced Attention to and Oversight of F-35 Affordability Are Needed

Report GAO-21-505T published by the Government Accountability Office

DOD plans to acquire nearly 2,500 F-35 aircraft for about $400 billion. It projects spending another $1.27 trillion to operate and sustain them—an estimate that has steadily increased since 2012.

We testified that the military services collectively face tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project will be unaffordable. For example, the Air Force needs to reduce estimated annual per-plane costs by $3.7 million (47%) by 2036, or costs in that year alone will be $4.4 billion more than it can afford…

GAO’s draft report suggested that Congress should consider (1) requiring DOD to report annually on progress in achieving the affordability constraints, and (2) making F-35 aircraft procurement decisions contingent on DOD’s progress in achieving these constraints. GAO also made four recommendations to DOD, including that it assess its cost reduction efforts and F-35 program requirements, and develop a plan to ensure it can afford to sustain the future F-35 fleet.