Changing Conditions Drive Need for New F/A-22 Business Case
GAO-04-391: Published: Mar 15, 2004. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 2004.
Following a history of increasing cost estimates to complete F/A-22 development, Congress asked GAO to assess the Air Force's F/A-22 development program annually and determine whether the Air Force is meeting key performance, schedule, and cost goals. On April 23, 2003, a congressional subcommittee requested that the Department of Defense (DOD) provide more detailed information on the business case that supports the estimated quantities and costs for an affordable F/A-22 program. Specifically, GAO (1) identified changes in the F/A-22 program since its inception, (2) reviewed the status of the development activities, and (3) examined the sufficiency of business case information provided for congressional oversight.
The Air Force is developing the F/A-22 aircraft to be less detectable to adversaries, capable of high speeds for long ranges, and able to provide a pilot with improved awareness of the surrounding situation through integrated avionics. In addition, the Air Force plans to expand the F/A-22's ability to engage targets on the ground to provide a robust capability not originally planned at the start of the program. The Air Force plans to begin initial operational test and evaluation in March 2004 and to seek full rate production approval in December 2004. The F/A-22 program has experienced several significant changes since it began development in 1986. First, the Air Force cannot afford to purchase the quantities of aircraft that were planned 18 years ago. The Air Force had originally planned to buy 750 aircraft, but it now estimates it can only afford 218 aircraft. Second, in order to develop the expanded air-to-ground attack capability, the Office of Secretary of Defense estimates that the Air Force will need $11.7 billion in modernization funding. Lastly, the Air Force has determined that new avionics computer processors and architecture are needed to support most planned enhancements, which will further increase program costs and risk. Further, the development test program continues to experience problems and risks further delays. The F/A-22's avionics continue to experience shutdowns and failures. Moreover, the F/A-22 has not met its reliability requirements and has experienced failures in its computerized maintenance support system. This has led to aircraft spending more time on the ground undergoing maintenance. Due to the risks of future cost increases and schedule delays, a congressional subcommittee requested that DOD provide business case information on the F/A-22. However, the information DOD provided did not address why this aircraft is needed given current and projected threats. The business case also did not address how many aircraft the Air Force needs to accomplish its missions, how many the Air Force can afford considering the full life-cycle costs, whether investments in new air-to-ground capabilities are needed, and what are the opportunity costs associated with purchasing any proposed quantities of this aircraft. While the response stated that the Air Force still plans to buy 277 F/A-22 aircraft, the Air Force estimates that only 218 aircraft are affordable within congressionally imposed funding limitations. In addition, significant investment decisions remain and could affect another $40 billion to support this program through full rate production and implementation of the spiraled improvement efforts. In light of the uncertainty concerning how many aircraft are needed in today's environment, the large investments that remain, and unknown outcomes of planned operational testing, GAO continues to have concerns regarding the DOD's readiness to make a full rate production decision.
Recommendations for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In its March 15, 2005 report, Tactical Aircraft: Air Force Still Needs Business Case to Support F/A-22 Quantities and Increased Capabilities, GAO-05-304, GAO restated the need for the Secretary of Defense to complete a new business case that justifies the need for expanded air-to-ground capabilities and justifies the quantity of F/A-22 needed to satisfy requirements for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. In their official comments to this report, the Office of the Secretary of Defense concurred with GAO's recommendation. Specifically, they stated the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Report (QDR) will address quantity of aircraft needed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
Recommendation: Given the sizable investment that remains in the F/A-22 program, the uncertainties, and the ever changing financial demands of DOD, Congress and the Secretary of Defense would benefit from a comprehensive assessment of the number of F/A-22 aircraft needed as well as assurance that problems identified in initial operational testing will be identified and resolved. Specifically, the Secretary of Defense should complete a new business case analysis that determines the continued need for the F/A-22 and that specifically (a) addresses the need for an expanded air-to-ground capability and an assessment of alternatives, to include the feasibility of using other assets like the F-35 and unmanned aerial vehicles planned for the future; (b) justifies the quantity of F/A-22 aircraft needed to satisfy requirements for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions; and (c) provides evidence that the planned quantity is affordable within current budgets and the congressional funding limitation. The Secretary should provide the results of the business case analysis to the defense committees before the decision to start full rate production.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Status: Closed - Not Implemented
Comments: The F/A-22 program completed IOT&E in December 2004. On April 15, 2005, the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) approved the Full Rate Production capability of the F/A-22 program; therefore, this recommendation can be closed.
Recommendation: Given the sizable investment that remains in the F/A-22 program, the uncertainties, and the ever changing financial demands of DOD, Congress and the Secretary of Defense would benefit from a comprehensive assessment of the number of F/A-22 aircraft needed as well as assurance that problems identified in initial operational testing will be identified and resolved. Specifically, the Secretary of Defense should, before the full rate production decision is made and in conjunction with the Beyond Low-Rate Initial Production Report, provide the defense committees a plan that shows how the Air Force will correct and fund any major problems identified and still open after IOT&E is completed.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense