Lawmaker: Pentagon Should Not Enter F-35 PBL Contract

Credit: USAF

A senior lawmaker is cautioning against the Pentagon entering a five-year performance-based logistics (PBL) contract with Lockheed Martin for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

There are continuing problems plaguing the F-35 logistics system and the Defense Department should not enter a “multiyear performance contract” until technical and intellectual property issues are resolved, House Armed Services readiness subcommittee Ranking Member Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said March 3 during a hearing.

“As we ramp up production the imperative of getting sustainment right takes on even more importance,” Lamborn said.

Last week, a Lockheed Martin executive acknowledged that signing a five-year PBL contract for the F-35 by the start of fiscal 2021 will be a “challenge.” The company intends to invest $1.5 billion toward the PBL to jump-start projects in areas like reliability and maintainability improvements, Greg Ulmer, F-35 vice president and general manager at Lockheed, told reporters.

The government has formed a joint team comprising U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Lockheed Martin personnel, Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts told reporters in January. “We’re looking at everything from the way we’re doing things now to a full PBL, to something in between,” Geurts said.

Ulmer is confident the government will decide to sign a five-year PBL. “I don’t know the exact timing of when that will occur but that’s the intent,” he said.

The Pentagon is working with outside consultants to generate a data set on aircraft performance, material, labor and other cost elements. This is intended to assist the government in deciding whether the PBL contract will provide the most effective path for the F-35 program, Pentagon acquisition executive Ellen Lord told reporters in January.

On Jan. 6, the F-35 Joint Program Office awarded Lockheed a $1.9 billion contract to maintain the F-35 fleet, support training and expand capacity. The contract follows a $1.4 billion award in 2018 and one for $1.15 billion in 2019 for global sustainment services.

 Lord said a key focus for the government is lowering the cost per flight-hour of the fifth-generation aircraft. Lockheed has committed to lowering the F-35A cost per flight-hour to $25,000 by 2025.