National Security

A Single Defense Contractor Lost More Than 1 Million Spare F-35 Parts, Watchdog Report Finds

(Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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One defense contractor has lost at least one million spare F-35 parts since 2018, and the Pentagon only knows what happened to a minute fraction of them, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The F-35 Joint Program Office does not account for spare parts in the pool shared amongst contractors if they are located at “non-prime contractor facilities,” the GAO report explains. As a result, one F-35 prime contractor has lost more than one million parts worth north of $85 million since May 2018, the GAO found.

Less than two percent of those losses have been reviewed by the F-35 Joint Program Office, the GAO stated. The same contractor has not reported more than 900,000 spare part losses worth more than $66 million to the office for review.

One example is actuator doors. The contractor discovered 34 were lost in quarter four of 2019, worth about $3.2 million, but have not yet been reported to the F-35 Joint Program Office.

The issue stems from the fact that spare parts for F-35s belong to a global pool that is shared amongst contractors at different facilities. Because of the pool arrangement, there is no agreement between parties on whether the parts are accountable under a contract or government-furnished property, according to the GAO. The prime contractors maintain information about the spare parts, but not all of it is accountable to the Pentagon, the GAO said.

The GAO recommended that the Pentagon ensure that all parts are accountable under a contract and develop a process for reporting losses. (RELATED: Air Force Previously Caught Suspected Pentagon Leaker Mishandling Secrets But Didn’t Revoke Security Clearance)

The F-35 is the most costly weapon developed by the Pentagon in history, with an estimated price tag of $1.7 trillion over the life of the program. More than 920 of the Lockheed Martin jets have been produced to date, and they’re used by 17 different countries, primarily the United States.