The possibility of a five-year Pentagon Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) contract award this year to Lockheed Martin [LMT] for sustainment of the company’s F-35 fighter is giving DoD leverage to gain access to more F-35 technical data, a top U.S. Air Force official said this week, in an effort to reduce program cost and improve the fighter’s mission capability.

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) has said that the Pentagon may award a five-year PBL contract this year, if the F-35 program is able to meet conditions set out in the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (Defense Daily, Feb. 17).

“There is the upcoming possibility of [a] Performance-Based Logistics contract, a five-year one, and part of the strategy there that the JPO has is to leverage that to obtain the data rights we need for our organic sustainment on F-35 so we are working to leverage that contract opportunity to obtain more data rights,” U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter told reporters in response to a question on March 7 at the Air & Space Forces Association conference in Aurora, Colo.

The Air Force is using different program points to acquire data rights from industry and lessen costs.

A recent example is the March 3 Milestone C decision by Hunter to approve the Boeing [BA]/Leonardo MH-139A to enter low-rate initial production.

While Boeing agreed to deliver the technical data when the Air Force  awarded the Boeing-Leonardo team a $2.38 billion contract in September 2018 to include up to 84 MH-139As, that technical data resided with Leonardo, which did not have a contractual requirement to provide the data, Hunter said this week (Defense Daily, March 7).

The new Milestone C arrangement for the MH-139A locks in a step-by-step approach to obtaining that technical data.

Air Force obtaining of data rights “is something we are doing across the board on all of our acquisition programs where it’s relevant,” Hunter told reporters on March 7. “Obviously, there are certain items you’re buying that are either very simple or commercial in nature where you’re not gonna get as much data from industry, but for most of our development programs having a government ability to have access to and shape the core and underlying technical baseline is fundamental to our design approach. And we are going to be leveraging significant points of contract awards and other points of programs where we have leverage to make sure we lock those in.”

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said that he wants his staff to ensure that the service gets contractor technical data up front wherever possible.

The F-35 is one program that has had significant data rights questions.

“The F-35 is something I have a lot of history with,” Kendall said on March 7. “The F-35 was born out of an era where the government wasn’t diligent about getting the data rights it needs. I think that’s created a lot of difficulties over the past 20-odd years. We’ve learned from that, I hope.”

“When I was [DoD] under secretary for acquisition, we emphasized data rights and getting them early in a program when you still have competitive pressures to use to help you do that,” he said. “I’m not sure we’re always as good about that as we should be, but it should be a part of every program to make sure the government gets what it needs and negotiates to get what it has to.”

Kendall was Pentagon acquisition chief during the Obama administration between May 2012, and January 2017.

Lockheed Martin won the Joint Strike Fighter award to build the F-35 in 2001.

The Pentagon “is able to access Lockheed Martin-owned [F-35] data that it has ‘government purpose rights’ to,” DoD said last June in response to questions from Defense Daily. “However, technical data related to many of the components of the F-35 platform is owned by the OEM [original equipment manufacturer], not Lockheed Martin and as such, Lockheed Martin cannot provide access to that data. The department has contractual rights to the technical data for some components; for those that the department does not have contractual rights to, the department is working either through Lockheed Martin or directly with the OEM to get access to the technical data the department needs to support the F-35 sustainment enterprise.”

The F-35 program is moving to field the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN)–a cloud-based, government-owned logistics software system to replace the two decade-old Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).

While Lockheed Martin has owned ALIS data rights, the F-35 program has said that the federal government will have the data rights to ODIN.