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More F-35 fighter problems: Millions in spare parts missing and unaccounted for

The director of the Government Accountability Office's Financial Management and Assurance team calls the situation "alarming."

WASHINGTON — More problems for the most expensive weapons system in history.

A new report uncovers millions of dollars in missing or unaccounted spare parts for the U.S. military's F-35 Lightning II fighter jet program.

Since May 2018, one F-35 prime contractor incurred losses of over one million spare parts, totaling over $85 million. As of October 2022, the same prime contractor has now reported over 900,000 spare parts valued at over $66 million to the F-35 Joint Program Office for review. 

The Government Accountability Office report said the Department of Defense does not have any assurance that lost spare parts or those in need of disposition are being accurately reported and tracked. 

The parts include engines, tires, landing gear, support equipment, and other parts such as bolts, screws, and fasteners.

The main reason that no accountability system exists for the parts is, they have been stored at dozens of locations around the world and were not owned by the U.S. government or either contractor according to the report.

The report goes on to say: "DOD's lack of accountability over the F-35 global spares pool affects its ability to resolve the material weakness related to the F-35 program."

"It's a significant problem. Accountability for these resources is critical," said Kristen Kociolek, GAO's Director with our Financial Management and Assurance team.

In an interview with 13News Now, Kociolek called the situation "alarming."

"Without the government knowing where these parts are, there is a risk to the government being ready to fight the mission, to know where the assets are," she said. "And to the taxpayers, if there's not good sight as to where these assets are, they could be buying things they don't need."

The GAO is making four recommendations, including for the DOD to take steps to ensure that all spare parts in the global spares pool are accountable under a contract and to develop a process for contractors to report losses and dispose of spare parts that are excess, obsolete, or unserviceable. 

The DOD concurred with all four recommendations and cited actions it will take to address them.

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