The F-35 will be “Okay”

If Lockheed Martin can stick to the practices the Pentagon is demanding on F-35 production, there should be few cost surprises ahead on the program, Shay Assad, director of defense pricing in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said Wednesday. Assad, speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., said the Pentagon is “all over” Lockheed’s compliance with the Earned Value Management System, which identifies whether the right work is being done, and whether it’s being done well. Lockheed has put forward a plan that has “not been proven,” but “now they’ve got a path and we’re satisfied that if they stay on that path, they’ll be okay,” he said. Assad said some of the chronic cost increases on the project have been due to “discoveries” in flight test that require rework of the design—the standard drawback of concurrency in development and production. “One of the problems is their ability to accurately forecast their work,” said Assad, but with the new EVMS in place, “I do believe they’ll be in pretty good shape.” Further cost surprises would likely be due chiefly to discoveries in developmental or operational test and evaluation, he said, though he cautioned, “I’m not a wizard” and can’t predict “unknown unknowns.”