The Pentagon is to determine the future supply chain strategy for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 fighter.

In April, 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) advised the F-35 program to devise such a strategy in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon acquisition chief, and top Department of the Air Force and Navy officials.

That strategy is one of three open, priority recommendations on the F-35 program not yet implemented, according to a new GAO report.

“DoD concurred with this recommendation,” the new report said of the future supply chain strategy. “As of February 2022, DoD documentation indicated that the department had completed a Business Case Analysis of its Product Support Strategy.”

“This analysis examines the full strategy and evaluates each alternative, to include quantitative and qualitative assessments, risk analysis, and recommendations,” the study said. “DoD stated that the F-35 program is assessing the findings of the analysis and working to gain stakeholder agreement on the path forward. According to DoD, it will then formally define the program’s future supply chain strategy. DoD officials estimated that this effort would not be complete until at least summer of 2022.”

Another of GAO’s open recommendations on the F-35 is for DoD to develop an intellectual property strategy for the fighter–guidance first issued by GAO in September 2014.

GAO said in the new report that as of February this year, “DoD had not completed an intellectual property strategy for the F-35 program.”

“According to officials, the completion of an intellectual property strategy depends on knowing the future of the F-35 enterprise, which has yet to be fully determined,” GAO said.

This month, Lockheed Martin received a more than $7.6 billion contract for 129 F-35s in Lot 15, and the F-35 program office has said that it has been working with the company to formulate contract data rights language for up to 375 F-35s in Lots 15-17 (Defense Daily, Aug. 12).

“We continue to work with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to ensure the government has the technical data and computer software for F-35 that the U.S. government needs to maintain readiness and develop an affordable long-term sustainment strategy,” the program said last month.

Data rights has been a significant issue for the F-35 program.

While Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said that he has instructed his staff to ensure that the government owns the data rights on future programs, industry has a significant data rights stake in the tri-service and international F-35. 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 has said. “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.”

GAO, in its new report, said that the Pentagon must clearly define the future F-35 supply chain strategy and update key strategy documents.

“This should include determining the roles of both the prime contractor and DoD in managing the supply chain and the investments in technical data needed to support DoD-led management,” the new study said. “Until DoD implements our recommendations and clearly defines its strategy for managing the F-35 supply chain in the future—to include any additional actions and investments necessary to support that strategy—the F-35 program will lack the certainty and unity of effort needed to meaningfully improve supply chain performance and reduce costs.”

This month, Air Force Col. David “Ajax” Berkland, commander of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson AFB, Alaska, recounted that during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Marine F-35Bs had a part needed by F-35As in the wing but that the wing had to “go back through Lockheed and through some sort of bureaucracy to get approval to source that part, which may, nor may not, come through Iwakuni though it’s there and available for us” (Defense Daily, Aug. 10).

Next year, the Air Force has wanted to begin fielding 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.

The new GAO report said that DoD officials are “unclear how long it will take” for ODIN to become operational.

The three open, priority GAO recommendations for the F-35 program are among 84 overall for DoD.