Joint Strike Fighter: Assessment of DOD's Funding Projection for the F136 Alternate Engine

GAO-10-1020R Published: Sep 15, 2010. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 2010.
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The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program began in 1996 with an acquisition strategy that called for a competitive engine acquisition program. The program planned to first develop and procure the F135 primary engine and, with a few years lag time, develop the F136 second (or alternate) engine to compete with the F135 engine for future procurements and life-cycle support activities. The Department of Defense (DOD) requested funding for both engines annually as the JSF program progressed until the fiscal year 2007 budget submission, at which point the DOD stopped requesting funding for the F136 alternate engine. Defense officials believe that the operational risks of relying on a single engine supplier are low and do not justify the extra costs to maintain a second engine source. DOD further states that there is no guarantee that having an engine competition will create enough long-term savings to outweigh the up-front costs and now intends to acquire only the F135 primary engine. However, Congress has continued to fund the alternate engine development program annually through fiscal year 2010. According to the Secretary of Defense, DOD would need an additional $2.9 billion in funding over the next 6 years to support an alternate engine program up to the point where it believes it could begin competition in 2017. This amount includes the additional funding DOD says is needed with respect to the alternate engine to finish system development and demonstration, allow sufficient time for the contractor to gain production experience before DOD begins the competition, and create a logistics support system for the engine. DOD has stated that it has higher priority needs for this funding and has not included any funding in its fiscal year 2011 budget request for the alternate engine.

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