Tactical Aircraft:

DOD Should Present a New F-22A Business Case before Making Further Investments

GAO-06-455R: Published: Jun 20, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 2006.

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The F-22A is the Air Force's next generation air superiority fighter aircraft. It incorporates a low observable (stealth) and highly maneuverable airframe, advanced integrated avionics, and a new engine capable of sustained supersonic flight without the use of afterburners. It was originally designed to counter threats posed by the Soviet Union and was intended to replace the F-15 fighter in the air-to-air combat role. However, the Air Force now plans to add a more robust ground attack and intelligence- gathering capability not previously envisioned but now considered "necessary" to increase the utility of the aircraft. In December 2005, the Air Force changed designations from the F/A-22 to the F-22A. The aircraft maintained all current capabilities as well as the expanded ground attack capabilities. Officials have initiated a modernization program to develop and integrate these new capabilities. In March 2005, we reported that despite substantial changes to the F-22A program since it started in 1986, Air Force leaders have not developed a new business case for investing billions more dollars to modernize the aircraft. Over time quantities have been reduced, and in recent years both funding and quantities have been in a state of flux. Given significant changes in quantities and planned capabilities, the large investments still planned, and the potential for further changes, Congress requested that we review the F-22A program. Specifically, we assessed the need for a new business case before further investments are made in the F-22A program and statutory criteria the Air Force is required to meet to enter a multiyear contract for the remaining aircraft. To assess the Air Force's business case for further investments in the F-22A program, we reviewed recent Office of the Secretary of Defense Program Budget Decisions (PBDs) and F-22A requirements documents. We also reviewed F-22A planned modernization schedules and documents and interviewed program officials from the F-22A program office, Air Combat Command, and the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Tactical Air. To assess the Air Force's proposed use of a multiyear contract for the remaining F-22As, we compared program documentation on cost, schedule, and performance with statutory criteria for entering into a multiyear contract. We conducted our review between August 2005 and April 2006 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

Based on our review, in our opinion, the DOD has not demonstrated the need or value for making further investments in the F-22A program. The Air Force's current stated "need" is for 381 F-22As to satisfy air-to-air missions and recently added requirements for more robust ground attack and intelligence-gathering capabilities. However, because of past cost overruns and current budget constraints, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) states that it can now afford only 183 F-22As. This leaves a 198-aircraft gap between the Air Force's stated need and what is currently affordable. The Air Force is planning to invest about $4.4 billion through 2011 to add more robust ground attack and intelligence gathering capabilities for the F-22A. However, because of the large aircraft gap between stated Air Force requirements and current and future budget realities, it may not be prudent to make additional investments for these new missions and capabilities. Furthermore, alternatives such as the Joint Strike Fighter and F-15 might be able to execute ground attack more cost-effectively given the substantially fewer numbers of F-22As that OSD has committed to buy. In December 2005, OSD restructured the F-22A program by extending production to 2010, adding 4 aircraft for a total planned procurement of 183 F-22As and adding $1 billion to the procurement program. Under the restructured acquisition program, the Air Force is planning to procure a total of 60 F-22As in a multiyear procurement. However, in the Air Force's multiyear procurement justification package sent to Congress on May 16, 2006, it stated that an additional $674 million is needed to fully fund the multiyear program being proposed. Our work led us to make observations on issues that could affect the Air Force's ability to satisfy several of the statutory criteria for entering into a multiyear contract, including the documentation of savings, a stable design, and available funding.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Because of the large disparity between what the Air Force wants for the F-22A program and what OSD has committed to fund, there is a significant break in the business case to justify buying more F-22As. For this reason, Congress may wish to consider withholding additional funding for procurement and modernization until the Department completes a comprehensive business case that addresses the concerns we have raised herein.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress went on to fully fund the Air Force request for F-22A including and approval to begin a multiyear procurement to buy out the remaining aircraft currently planned for this program. Therefore, our recommendation that Congress withhold funding for last year cannot be implemented. Mike Hazard 5/16/2007

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: Because of the significant and continuing changes in the F-22A program that have created an environment of investment uncertainty as well as the significant mismatch between stated Air Force needs and wants and future resource levels, the Secretary of Defense should delay further investments in F-22A procurement and modernization until it completes a comprehensive business case analysis that adequately considers alternatives, justifies the need for further investments, and reconciles the numbers of F-22As that are needed (i.e. based on credible current and future threats and considering other alternative approaches) as well as affordable and sustainable (i.e., based on current and expected DOD resource levels).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD did not concur with this recommendation. The Air Force and OSD proposed completing the F-22 procurement program with a 3-year multiyear procurement last year. Congress went on to fully fund the Air Force request for F-22A including the approval to begin a multiyear procurement to buy out the remaining aircraft currently planned for this program. Additionally, the Air Force requested and the OSD and Congress approved modernization funding to continue the development of new capabilities for the F-22 in fiscal year 2007. Therefore, our recommendation that the Secretary of Defense delay further investments in F-22 has been overcome by events in both OSD and the Congress with the fiscal year 2007 appropriations bill. Mike Hazard 5/16/2007

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