Surprise! Pentagon Watchdog Checking Out F-35 Program

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The Department of Defense Inspector General’s March newsletter contains this nugget:

Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) Quality Assurance Assessment. The objective of this assessment is to assess the quality management system for the Joint Strike Fighter procured by DoD from Lockheed Martin Corporation. The assessments will be performed on-site at Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE, and various sub-contractor facilities. Specifically, the assessment will focus on conformity to specified quality management system(s), contractual quality clauses, and internal quality processes and procedures.

Typically it’s been my experience that the IG won’t embark on projects willy-nilly. The latest annual Pentagon test and evaluation report noted high failure rates of some of the parts on the F-35B variant, although many of the fixes to the problems are redesigns, so the problems themselves may not be due to a lack of quality assurance. It’s possible this assessment is a move by the IG to the engage in preventative oversight of the $380 billion program to help keep it on track, rather than in reaction to something it has discovered. We’ve tapped the IG’s staff for more insight into what’s going on.