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GAO: More transparency needed for F-22 modernization spending

May. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
AF Budget
Two F-22A Raptors taxi down the runway at Langley Air Force Base, Va. (Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker / Air Force)
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The Defense Department disagrees with a recommendation to increase transparency to Congress on the costs of F-22 modernization, according to DoD’s response to a Government Accountability Office report calling for more oversight of the program.

The Air Force’s cost estimate for upgrading and sustaining the F-22 is about $11.3 billion as of January 2014, and that includes a 10-year, multibillion contract for modernization efforts that last through 2023. A GAO report, released on May 16, recommends to the Defense Department that the Air Force provide to Congress comprehensive cost and schedule baselines for continued upgrades, much like other major defense acquisition programs.

A major effort to modernize the F-22, called the Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program, is not managed with its own cost and schedule baseline, which “limits transparency of cost and schedule progress,” the GAO wrote.

“Without a comprehensive baseline cost and schedule estimate for reliability efforts that encompasses the life of the aircraft across all types of funding, it is difficult to consistently track cost and schedule progress on projects that, to date, have cost almost $1 billion,” the report states.

The Defense Department, in a response to the GAO, stated that it should not need to provide these baselines in its annual report to Congress. “[I]t cannot be baselined like [a major acquisition program] because there will be fluctuations in the cost based on life-cycle issues that arise as the weapon system ages.”

The RAMMP program is intended to increase the availability of the F-22 by improving the aircraft’s reliability and reducing the time spent on maintaining the aircraft. The service has spent about $900 million on the program through the end of fiscal 2013, and there has been “some positive effect” on reliability.

“However, the Air Force has never been able to meet the F-22’s aircraft availability requirement and does not expect to meet that requirement within the next four years,” the report states.

The Air Force originally set a requirement that the average amount of flying time between maintenance would be 3.0 hours. The service could not meet that requirement, and instead raised the mark for overall aircraft availability at 70.6 percent in fiscal 2015, from a requirement of 61.2 percent in 2011. As of fiscal 2013, the fleet still has not surpassed 60 percent materiel availability, according to GAO statistics.

“The Air Force has consistently fallen short of its availability requirements,” the GAO wrote. “Program projections indicate it will not achieve 70.6 availability by fiscal year 2018.”

The Air Force is also planning to spend about $9.4 billion to modernize the F-22’s weapons systems, across four increments. The current fleet has been upgraded to Increment 2, which includes the resolutions of problems left over from the original development program and basic air-to-ground capabilities, including the joint direct attack munition.

The service is currently fielding Increment 3.1, which includes enhanced air-to-ground attack capabilities, to include the small diameter bomb, along with enhanced radar capabilities. This increment started development in 2006 and is expected to be completely fielded in 2017.

Increment 3.2A is a software-only modification of the previous upgrade, to included enhanced electronic protection. Development began in 2011, with complete fielding in Oct. 2017.

Lastly, the Air Force last year began development on Increment 3.2B, with complete fielding expected in Aug. 2020. This will include full integration of advanced air-to-air missiles, the AIM-9X and AIM-120D, along with upgraded geolocation and electronic protection.

In addition to all this work, the Air Force is in the middle of a Structural Repair Program on the fleet, which began in 2006 and will be completed in 2019. This is needed to install structural improvements to help the aircraft achieve its originally expected 8,000 flight hour service life, according to the GAO.

Of the total $11.3 billion the service plans to spend on the F-22, $9.36 billion is planned for modernization of the fleet, which first reached initial operating capability nine years ago.

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