CAPITOL HILL: As F-35 program officials prepared to testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee, they announced they were keeping back some $25.7 million, or 5 percent, of payments for the F135 engine used in the Joint Strike Fighter.
“Due to decertification of their Earned Value Management Process by the Defense Contract Management Agency, Pratt & Whitney is subject to a 5% withhold against all F135 propulsion deliveries,” F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova said in an email. “The total of this withhold as of end of February is $25.7M. This money will be held back by DCMA until the company fixes their internal business system used to track cost and schedule performance.”
The money withheld varies “from engine-to-engine and lot-to-lot.”
A Pratt & Whitney representative at the hearing, Matthew Bates, argued the company has “received approval from the DCMA on 95 percent of our corrective action plans and anticipate approval of all corrective action plans soon.”
He told me in an email that his company “is delivering F135 engines on time and ahead of contract, and we have not impacted Lockheed Martin’s schedule on the F-35 production line.”
Bates conceded that not all is perfect. “Of the thousands of specification requirements for the F135 engine, we have a small number of parts that do not meet requirements. When this occurs, there have been instances where a withhold or financial consideration has been paid by Pratt & Whitney. We are working closely with the program office to ensure even better quality and delivery performance,” he said, adding that Pratt has “reduced the cost of the F135 engine by more than 40 percent.”
During the hearing, the head of the F-35 program, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told Sen. John McCain and the rest of the Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee that he has “a lot of time to catch up and be smart” with a possible program delay of four to six months. Bogdan continued to assert that he did not expect to miss the Initial Operations Capability date for the Marines — July 2015.
Best line of the hearing: Sen. John McCain, clearly a bit frustrated by Bogdan’s answers that he has things under control and was committed to transparency and to accountability, asked who has been held accountable for the F-35’s many problems over the last seven years. “Certainly Lockheed Martin hasn’t. They just jacked up the cost.”