Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition:

Mature Critical Technologies Needed to Reduce Risks

GAO-02-39: Published: Oct 19, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 19, 2001.

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The Joint Strike Fighter Program (JSFP), the military's most expensive aircraft program, is intended to produce affordable, next-generation aircraft to replace aging aircraft in military inventories. Although JSFP has made good progress in some technology areas, the program may not meet its affordability objective because critical technologies are not projected to be matured to levels GAO believes would indicate a low risk program at the planned start of engineering and manufacturing development in October 2001.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense did not agree with GAO's recommendation that the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase, now referred to as Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD), should be delayed until critical technologies are appropriately matured. DOD stated that another independent assessment of JSF critical technologies concluded that the technical maturity of the JSF was sufficient to warrant entry into the SDD phase. Approval for entrance into this phase was granted on October 26, 2001.

    Recommendation: To eliminate one of the major sources of cost and schedule risk, the Secretary of Defense should delay the start of engineering and manufacturing development until critical technologies are matured to acceptable levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on this report, the Department of Defense indicated that required resources have been budgeted to address integration of the critical technologies. The next critical milestone for assessing technical maturity will be the JSF critical design review, currently scheduled for 2006. Based on best practices standards, the program should demonstrate that the JSF design is stable by the critical design review. The knowledge necessary to demonstrate design stability includes evidence of technology maturity.

    Recommendation: If the Secretary of Defense decides to accept these risks and move the program into engineering and manufacturing development as scheduled, the Secretary should dedicate the resources to ensure that maturity of the critical technologies is demonstrated by the critical design review or defer the inclusion of immature technologies from the approved design.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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