USAF: JSF Price Swells to $82M Per Plane
DoD Notifies Congress of Higher Cost
By LAURA M. COLARUSSO
The cost of the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program has risen to $82.1 million, enough to require the Pentagon to notify Congress, which it has done, according to Air Force officials.
Surging material costs, especially for aluminum and titanium; the addition of another wing production line in Italy; and program restructuring are to blame, according to Air Force sources.
The price tag for a single JSF has risen by 33 percent since 2001, when the average plane cost $61.8 million, the sources said.
Spokesmen for the JSF program and builder Lockheed Martin did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The JSF is among dozens of Air Force programs whose costs are outpacing their budgets enough to require a congressional report under the Nunn-McCurdy law. Changes to the law in the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act have made it more common for programs to be in violation. Before 2006, the services had to notify Congress if they saw an increase of 15 percent from year to year.
If the cost grew by 25 percent, the services had to report the breach and justify the program based on national security needs. With the 2006 authorization bill changes, Congress must be notified of programs that see a 30 percent cost growth over their original baseline budget.
Prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s “teaming restructure” with the company’s subcontractors will cost about $1 billion, sources said.
The Air Force is facing $6.1 billion in shortfalls for growing requirements and aircraft upgrades as officials begin preliminary work on the 2008 budget submission. One large portion of that is spare parts, which the Air Force “didn’t take into account” when it budgeted for the program, an Air Force source said.
In January, JSF program officials disclosed the total overrun is estimated to be about $19 billion, the sources said. The Air Force portion of that is about $9.3 billion, they said.
Another Air Force source called the service’s current funding for the JSF program “insufficient to meet all requirements.”
Air Force plans call for buying 1,763 F-35s, but service officials acknowledged they might not be able to afford that many. To make up for the cost overruns, the Air Force is studying how many aircraft it should give up.
One option includes cutting 55 aircraft from the Air Force’s proposed buy. Another option could be to acquire 82 fewer aircraft. A third option would have the Air Force buy 89 fewer aircraft.
Sources cautioned, however, no decisions have been made.
This is not the first time the $250 billion program has run into cost problems. In 2004, program officials acknowledged the aircraft was about 1,000 pounds overweight. That added about a year to the developmental testing, which in turn boosted the cost of the program by about $5 billion.