Le GAO juge le JSF

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Le GAO juge le JSF

13 mars 2008 — Le Government Accounting Office (GAO), la Cour des Comptes US, publie régulièrement des rapports sur le programme Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Le GAO vient d’en publier deux le même jour.

• Le premier rapport est intitulé: «Joint Strike Fighter: Recent Decisions by DOD Add to Program Risks». Il a été publié le 11 mars 2008.

• Le second rapport est intitulé: «Joint Strike Fighter: Impact of Recent Decisions on Program Risks». Il a été publié le même 11 mars 2008.

Nous diffusons ci-dessous les deux résumés (abstracts) des deux documents, dans leur intégralité. La lecture vaut largement d’être faite du début à la fin. Ce sont deux documents qui fixent d’une façon sérieuse et hors de toute polémique l’état du programme.

Premier rapport

«Joint Strike Fighter: Recent Decisions by DOD Add to Program RisksThe Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program seeks to produce and field three aircraft variants for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and eight international partners. The estimated total investment for JSF now approaches $1 trillion to acquire and maintain 2,458 aircraft. Under congressional mandate, GAO has annually reviewed the JSF program since 2005. GAO's prior reviews have identified a number of issues and recommended actions for reducing risks and improving the program's outcomes. This report, the fourth under the mandate, focuses on the program's progress in meeting cost, schedule, and performance goals; plans and risks in development and test activities; the program's cost-estimating methods; and future challenges facing the program. To conduct its work, GAO identified changes in cost and schedule from prior years and their causes, evaluated development progress and plans, assessed cost-estimating methodologies against best practices, and analyzed future budget requirements.

»Since last year's report, the JSF program office estimates that total acquisition costs increased by more than $23 billion, primarily because of higher estimated procurement costs. The JSF development cost estimate stayed about the same. Development costs were held constant by reducing requirements, eliminating the alternate engine program, and spending management reserve faster than budgeted. Facing a probable contract cost overrun, DOD implemented a Mid-Course Risk Reduction Plan to replenish management reserves from about $400 million to about $1 billion by reducing test resources. Progress has been reported in several important areas, including partner agreements, first flights of a JSF prototype and test bed, and a more realistic procurement schedule. The midcourse plan carries the risk of design and performance problems not being discovered until late in the operational testing and production phases, when it is significantly more costly to address such problems. The plan also fails to address the production and schedule concerns that depleted management reserves. Cost and schedule pressures are mounting. Two-thirds of budgeted funding for JSF development has been spent, but only about one-half of the work has been completed. The contractor is on its third, soon to be fourth, manufacturing schedule, but test aircraft in manufacturing are still behind, the continuing impacts of late designs, delayed delivery of parts, and manufacturing inefficiencies. We believe that JSF costs will likely be much higher than reported. The estimates do not include all costs, including about $6.8 billion for the alternate engine program. In addition, some assumptions are overly optimistic and not well documented. Three independent defense offices separately concluded that program cost estimates are understated by as much as $38 billion and that the development schedule is likely to slip from 12 to 27 months. Discrepancies in cost estimates add to program risks and hinder congressional oversight. Even so, DOD does not plan for another fully documented, independent total program life-cycle cost estimate until 2013. As JSF finalizes the three designs, matures manufacturing processes, conducts flight tests, and ramps up production, it faces significant challenges. JSF's goal — to develop and field an affordable, highly common family of strike aircraft — is threatened by rising unit procurement prices and lower commonality than expected. The program also makes unprecedented funding demands — an average of $11 billion annually for two decades — and must compete with other defense and nondefense priorities for the shrinking federal discretionary dollar. Further, expected cost per flight hour now exceeds that of the F-16 legacy fighter, one of the aircraft it is intended to replace. With almost 90 percent (in terms of dollars) of the acquisition program still ahead, it is important to address these challenges, effectively manage future risks, and move forward with a successful program that meets our and our allies' needs.»

Second rapport

« Joint Strike Fighter: Impact of Recent Decisions on Program RisksThe Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the Department of Defense's (DOD) most expensive aircraft acquisition program. DOD is expected to develop, procure, and maintain 2,443 aircraft at a cost of more than $950 billion. DOD plans for the JSF to replace or complement several types of aircraft in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Given the program's cost and importance, it is critical that decisions are made within this program to maximize its benefit to the nation. This testimony highlights a number of those decisions and impacts. It (1) discusses emerging risks to the overall program, and (2) updates information for GAO's cost analysis of last year regarding sole-source and competitive scenarios for acquisition and sustainment of the JSF engine. Information on the overall program is from our mandated annual report, also issued today. GAO tracked annual cost and schedule changes, reasons for changes, decisions affecting development, and compared DOD cost estimating methodologies to best practices. For the two engines, GAO updated cost data from last year's testimony and made new projections.

»GAO believes recent DOD decisions, while potentially reducing near-term funding needs, could have long-term cost implications. DOD's recent plan to reduce test resources in order to pay for development cost overruns adds more risk to the overall JSF program. Midway through development, the program is over cost and behind schedule. Difficulties in stabilizing aircraft designs and the inefficient manufacturing of test aircraft have forced the program to spend management reserves much faster than anticipated. To replenish this reserve, DOD officials decided not to request additional funding and time for development at this time, but opted instead to reduce test resources. GAO believes this plan will hamper development testing while still not addressing the root causes of related cost increases. While DOD reports that total acquisition costs have increased by $55 billion since a major restructuring in 2004, GAO and others in DOD believe that the cost estimates are not reliable and that total costs will be much higher than currently advertised. Another restructuring appears likely — GAO expects DOD will need more money and time to complete development and operational testing, which will delay the full-rate production decision and the fielding of capabilities to the warfighter. This year, DOD is again proposing cancellation of the JSF alternate engine program. The current estimated remaining life cycle cost for the JSF engine program under a sole-source scenario is $54.9 billion. To ensure competition by continuing the JSF alternate engine program, an additional investment of about $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion may be required. However, potential advantages from a competitive strategy could result in savings equal to or exceeding that amount across the life cycle of the engine. GAO's updated cost analysis suggests that a savings of 9 to 11 percent — about 2 percent less than what GAO estimated last year — would recoup that investment. Also, as we noted last year, prior experience indicates that it is reasonable to assume that competition on the JSF engine program could yield savings of at least that much. Further, non financial benefits in terms of better engine performance and reliability, more responsive contractors, and improved industrial base stability are more likely outcomes under a competitive environment than under a sole-source strategy. While cancellation of the program provides needed funding in the near term, recent test failures for the primary JSF engine underscore the importance and long-term implications of DOD decision making with regard to the ultimate engine acquisition approach.»


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