Defense Management:

DOD Needs to Monitor and Assess Corrective Actions Resulting from Its Corrosion Study of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

GAO-11-171R: Published: Dec 16, 2010. Publicly Released: Dec 16, 2010.

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This report responds to House Report 111-166 to accompany the House bill (H.R. 2647) that later became the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The House Report noted the House Armed Services Committee's concerns that the lessons learned regarding the prevention and management of corrosion in the F-22 Raptor had not been fully applied to the development and acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The House Report directed that the Director of Corrosion Policy and Oversight evaluate the F-35 program and submit a report to the defense committees within 180 days after the act was enacted. The Department of Defense (DOD) report was also to include implications for existing and future weapon systems based on the findings of the F-35 evaluation. DOD submitted its report to Congress in September 2010. House Report 111-166 also directed the Comptroller General to provide an assessment of the completeness of DOD's evaluation and submit a report to the defense committees within 60 days after the date on which DOD submits its evaluation. In assessing the completeness of DOD's corrosion study, our objectives were to determine the extent to which the study (1) assessed the incorporation of lessons learned from the F-22's corrosion problems into the F-35's corrosion prevention and control (CPC) program, (2) identified implications for other current and future weapon systems' CPC programs, and (3) was consistent with generally accepted research standards that define a sound and complete study with regard to design, execution, and presentation.

DOD's study identifies several areas where the F-35 program has incorporated lessons learned from the F-22's corrosion problems, compares and contrasts the two aircraft programs, and discusses potential future corrosion issues for the F-35. The corrosion study also addresses various implications for other weapon systems' CPC programs. For example, it identifies key practices on which effective corrosion prevention and control for any weapon system depend, names five specific weapon system programs that could benefit from F-22 and F-35 lessons learned, and cites commonly noted corrosion prevention and control issues. The corrosion study was generally consistent with research standards that define a sound and complete study with regard to design, execution, and presentation. Further, we found that the study team made recommendations in exit briefings to the F-35 and F-22 program offices and that the report contains numerous statements suggesting corrective actions may be needed at other weapon system program offices, the services, and DOD to improve their CPC programs. However, no formal recommendations were made in the report. In the absence of formal recommendations, it may be difficult for DOD and Congress to monitor and assess corrective actions resulting from the corrosion study. Following up on corrective actions would help DOD to minimize the impacts of corrosion on military equipment. Therefore, we are making recommendations that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to document, and establish a process for monitoring and assessing, corrective actions taken by the F-35 and F-22 program offices, other weapon system program offices, the Air Force, the Navy, and DOD in response to the corrosion study. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with one.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on the draft report, DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. We will continue to monitor DOD's implementation.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the USD (AT&L) to document Air Force-and Navy-specific recommendations flowing from the corrosion study and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of these services' corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on the draft report, DOD partially concurred with our recommendation. We will continue to monitor DOD's implementation of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the USD (AT&L) to document program-specific recommendations flowing from the corrosion study with regard to the other weapon systems identified--specifically, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, CH-53K helicopter, Joint High Speed Vessel, Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System, and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle--and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the CPC programs for these systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD, in briefings to congressional defense committees in January 2012 and January 2013, identified six program-specific recommendations from its corrosion study to improve F-35 and F-22 corrosion prevention and control. The briefings also included examples of the corrective actions that the two program offices have implemented or planned in response to the program-specific recommendations. According to DOD officials, the F-35 and F-22 program offices are responsible for regularly monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the corrective actions they have taken. In addition, many of the planned or implemented actions should inherently assist these two programs with their oversight efforts, such as those actions taken in response to DOD's recommendations to (1) document all corrosion-related damage for future analysis and (2) verify the effectiveness of corrosion mitigations. Officials also said that, in addition to monitoring the F-22 and F-35 program offices' implementation of corrective actions for the congressional briefings, the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, along with the Navy and Air Force Corrosion Executives, will continue to periodically monitor and assess the effectiveness of actions taken during the normal oversight required by DOD's corrosion instruction. Specifically, they will review the corrosion-related documentation that DOD's acquisition policies require major weapon system programs (such as the F-22 and F-35) to submit at established points in the acquisition lifecycle, and will also obtain information during sustainment and other program reviews.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD (AT&L)) to document program-specific recommendations flowing from the corrosion study with regard to the F-35 and F-22 and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of these programs' corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the USD (AT&L) to document DOD-wide recommendations flowing from the corrosion study, implementany needed changes in policies and practices to improve CPC in new systems, and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the department's corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the USD (AT&L) to document Air Force-and Navy-specific recommendations flowing from the corrosion study and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of these services' corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the USD (AT&L) to document program-specific recommendations flowing from the corrosion study with regard to the other weapon systems identified--specifically, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, CH-53K helicopter, Joint High Speed Vessel, Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System, and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle--and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the CPC programs for these systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD (AT&L)) to document program-specific recommendations flowing from the corrosion study with regard to the F-35 and F-22 and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of these programs' corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD, in briefings to congressional defense committees in January 2012 and January 2013, identified four DOD-wide recommendations from its corrosion study to improve corrosion prevention and control in existing and future weapon systems. The briefings also included a number of ongoing or completed corrective actions, including changes to policies and practices, related to the four recommendations. For example, an update to DOD's requirements for corrosion planning and documentation was submitted to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics for consideration during major revisions to its acquisition policy, enhanced corrosion guidance was included in the Defense Acquisition Guidebook, and military standards for aviation finishes were revised and released. According to DOD officials, the DOD Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight and the Service Corrosion Executives will continue to monitor implementation efforts and assess the effectiveness of corrective actions taken in the normal course of their oversight duties. Under DOD's corrosion instruction, the Director of the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight is responsible for developing and recommending corrosion policy and guidance and monitoring DOD efforts to prevent or mitigate corrosion during the acquisition and sustainment of military equipment, and the Service Corrosion Executives are responsible for corrosion processes and procedures within their respective military departments.

    Recommendation: To ensure sufficient follow-up to DOD's corrosion study, the Secretary of Defense should direct the USD (AT&L) to document DOD-wide recommendations flowing from the corrosion study, implementany needed changes in policies and practices to improve CPC in new systems, and establish a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the department's corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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