The Government Accountability Office has found that the Defense Department is close to completing the baseline development for the F-35 aircraft program but plans to enter into full-rate production in October 2019 before addressing key deficiencies discovered during testing.
GAO called on Congress to consider withholding appropriations for the Block 4 modernization effort for the Lockheed Martin-built fighter jet until DoD provides a technology evaluation and schedule and cost estimates, according to a report published Tuesday.
The report noted that the Pentagon has requested $278 million in funds to kick off the Block 4 process before it can provide a “sound business case” for that effort.
GAO recommended the DoD secretary should ask the F-35 program office to determine measures that could be taken to ensure that the aircraft meets maintainability and reliability requirements prior to reaching maturity for each variant and address deficiencies before moving to full-rate production.
DoD has asked $9.8 billion in fiscal 2019 funds and plans to request an additional annual budget of $10.4 billion for the F-35 program in the next 20 years, according to the report.