US Senator Chuck Grassley has called for greater transparency and accountability in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) management of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) programme.
In a letter to DoD Secretary Mark Esper, Grassley has highlighted the pressing need to resolve ongoing issues in the fighter jet programme.
The letter pointed to shortcomings identified by two recent audits pertaining to the management of the programme.
The two audits in question were respectively released by the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on 13 March and 17 June.
Grassley wrote in the letter: “Since its inception, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been plagued by technical issues, delays, and exorbitant costs.
“The lack of oversight has not only resulted in financial waste and further delays to the mission readiness of the F-35 but has potentially jeopardised the lives of pilots responsible for flying these aircraft.”
The reports questioned the DoD’s failure to maintain an independent government record of F-35 Government Furnished Property.
In addition, the reports highlighted that the department ‘did not receive parts that were ready for use and installation for the F-35’.
Due to the lack of an independent record, Lockheed and its subcontractor hold the only documentation of the property purchased by the government.
Grassley also commented on the DoD’s failure to appoint key oversight and accountability personnel, saying that these appointments would have increased oversight of critical property administration functions.
Grassley said: “When an agency is responsible for billions of dollars and the lives of our men and women in uniform, there needs to be accountability on every level.
“I implore Secretary Esper to not only look seriously at the issues highlighted by the Inspector General but move forward quickly to resolve these issues. There is no excuse for the continued wasteful spending and lack of transparency occurring at DoD.”
Lockheed Martin was quoted by Reuters as saying that it ‘looks forward to partnering with’ the Joint Program Office to address the reports.
The Senator has posed a series of questions to Mark Esper seeking clarifications regarding how the DoD plans to address the issues raised in the audits.