GAO: Costs of F-35 Program Drop

Washington Report

(April 1, 2014) The troubled F-35 fighter program got some good news this week when a government report said estimated acquisition costs for the most expensive weapons program in history have fallen 3.3 percent in the past year.

The Government Accountability Office’s annual report on arms programs estimates the Pentagon will spend $332.3 billion to develop and purchase 2,457 of the fifth-generation aircraft, according to Reuters news agency. That’s 3.3 percent less than the GAO estimate last year.

The GAO cited an improved production process by Lockheed, the prime contractor.

“Production efforts have improved as the production line continues to show efficiencies and quality metrics show positive trends,” the report says. “However, in 2013, problems with engine hoses, engine turbines, and specialty metals halted production deliveries for three months. In 2013, 35 planes were delivered to the government—eight less than originally planned. Aircraft deliveries were postponed for one month while the runway at the final assembly facility was resurfaced.”

Reuters says the Pentagon cost estimate for the aircraft is higher than the GAO estimate. The Pentagon estimate is $392 billion measured in 2012 dollars. The GAO estimate is in 2014 dollars. Reuters said it was not clear why the estimates are different, but expects the Defense Department figure to change when its annual report on major weapons programs costs is released later this month.