Defense Acquisitions:

Progress of the F/A-18E/F Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program

NSIAD-99-127: Published: Jun 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 1999.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Navy's F/A-18E/F developmental and operational test program, focusing on the: (1) extent to which the aircraft is meeting performance requirements; (2) risks associated with proceeding into operational test and evaluation (OPEVAL) with unresolved deficiencies; and (3) potential cost increases and risks associated with approving the Navy's request for multiyear funding for the program.

GAO noted that: (1) according to the Navy, the F/A-18E/F is meeting all performance requirements; (2) GAO does not agree with the Navy's assessment; (3) the Navy based its assessment on the E model's performance and assumed some improvements to the aircraft that have not yet been demonstrated; (4) without that assumption, the F model, which makes up over half of the E/F planned buy, is not meeting the interdiction range requirement--a primary justification for the program; (5) the Navy's OPEVAL schedule, combined with unresolved aircraft deficiencies, could cause the E/F to fail OPEVAL; (6) the Navy maintained its original schedule and started OPEVAL on May 27, 1999, even though completion of the development effort slipped from November 1998 to April 1999; (7) because the Navy is maintaining its original OPEVAL schedule, the contractor has insufficient time to correct some critical deficiencies in the aircraft that, according to Navy criteria, should be corrected prior to OPEVAL; (8) Department of Defense, Navy, and contractor personnel have stated that there is a medium risk that OPEVAL might find the E/F not operationally effective or suitable; (9) such a conclusion could result in a delay or postponement of the full-rate production decision and the need to conduct additional operational testing; (10) corrections of some deficiencies have been shifted to later in the program; (11) this will help the Navy stay within the congressionally mandated developmental cost cap, however, correcting these deficiencies will increase the procurement costs of the aircraft; (12) Congress is considering the Navy's request for multiyear procurement of the F/A-18E/F; (13) a key criterion for obtaining congressional approval for multiyear procurement is design stability; and (14) correction of some E/F deficiencies could result in contract modifications and design changes to the aircraft, which increases the risk associated with Congress's approving the Navy's multiyear procurement request for the E/F at this time.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not take action on the recommendation. The F/A-18E/F was submitted for multiyear approval in the fiscal year 2000 budget submission. However, the DOD fiscal year 2000 authorization conference report includes an amendment submitted by Senator Feingold that does address the recommendation. The amendment requires that the F/A-18E/F demonstrated during operational tests that it meets all 1997 F/A-18E/F ORD Key Performance Parameters for both the "E" and "F" models before it may enter into a multiyear procurement or full-rate production.

    Recommendation: Given the uncertainty surrounding the F/A-18E/F's final design and the Navy's intention not to correct all deficiencies and test those corrections as part of OPEVAL, the Secretary of Defense should defer multiyear funding for the E/F program until all corrections of deficiencies have been incorporated into the aircraft design and successfully tested.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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