GAO: F-35 Savings, EELV Costs

The F-35 strike fighter’s total acquisition cost dropped by an estimated $11.5 billion since last year, achieving the “most significant” savings of any DOD acquisition program, according to the Government Accountability Office. The 3.3 percent drop was “due solely to efficiencies found within the program” since the total number of F-35s on order did not change, states GAO in its annual assessment of select weapon programs, released March 31. However, the cost of DOD’s overall acquisition portfolio grew by $12.6 billion between 2012 and 2013, most of which “can be attributed to a single program,” states the report. The Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle purchase ballooned by 78 percent over the previous year. Most of the cost growth—an estimated $22 billion—was due to the Air Force buying an additional 60 boosters. The remaining $6 billion was due to other factors, including extending the program’s life cycle by 10 years, according to GAO. The EELV program was restructured after breaching cost-growth limits under the Nunn-McCurdy Act in 2012, states GAO. The breach prompted service officials to seek additional launch providers, including SpaceX, which is awaiting Air Force certification.