The House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee voted unanimously June 5 to move its mark of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to full committee, and will be considered as part of the Chairman’s mark next week.

Among the provisions included in the mark summary are several efforts to improve the oversight and efficiency of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s sustainment. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the F-35.

Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Naval Air Station Lemoore fly in formation over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range after completing a training mission (U.S. Navy Photo)

One section would require Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord to submit a report on steps being taken to improve the availability and accountability of F-35 parts within the supply chain, and withhold up to 75 percent of funds to the program until the report is delivered.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released two reports in April that painted a worrying picture for the F-35’s maintainability and supply chain challenges as the program moves toward a new Block 4 modernization effort and an expected full-rate production decision by the end of 2019 (Defense Daily, April 29).

The HASC readiness mark also requires that the U.S. Comptroller General conduct reviews of the Defense Department’s efforts related to the F-35 program, with three annual reports to be submitted to the full HASC committee by March 1, 2020, as well as in 2021 and 2022.

The review should analyze issues including: the status of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft program sustainment strategy; Department oversight and prime contractor management of key sustainment functions; the Department’s ability to reduce costs or maintain affordability for F-35 fleet sustainment; and “other matters regarding F-35 sustainment and affordability that the Comptroller General determines of critical importance to the long-term viability of the program.”

The mark notes that the F-35 program is “the most ambitious and expensive weapon system in the Department’s history, with total lifecycle costs estimated by the Department to be in excess of $1.0 trillion.”

The subcommittee mark also aims to increase oversight of the Defense Department’s broad range of weapons systems sustainment. It requires the military services to develop a “detailed plan” for the planning, programming, budgeting and execution of funding to support weapons systems sustainment, and modifies the Quarterly Readiness Report to Congress and Joint Forces Readiness review to boost relevancy and usefulness for congressional oversight, Chairman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday during the markup session.

Garamendi and Subcommittee Ranking Member Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) largely praised the bipartisan nature of crafting the readiness subcommittee markup in their remarks Wednesday, noting the main point of contention rested along party lines of how to address the Trump administration’s request for military support along the southern border with Mexico. They both recommended adoption of the mark, with Garamendi adding that the full committee will take up the border wall discussion in its markup next week.