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Key Challenges in Redesigning the F-35 Logistics System: a GAO Report

Current User Challenges with ALIS and its Effects on the F-35 fleet

Need a one page abstract single spaced on the attached article. Assignment instructions below: The selected article should cite references and have a bibliography at the end of the article. After reading the article, you should prepare a one-page single-spaced abstract of the article and provide the abstract, not the entire article, to the professor. At the beginning of your abstract, please include the bibliographic citation, also in correct APA format. Your abstract should be succinctly written in a descriptive and informative manner and not exceed one single-spaced typewritten page.

What GAO Found The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is integral to supporting F-35 aircraft operations and maintenance. However, F-35 personnel at 5 locations GAO visited for its March 2020 report cited several challenges. For example, users at all 5 locations we visited stated that electronic records of F-35 parts in ALIS are frequently incorrect, corrupt, or missing, resulting in the system signaling that an aircraft should be grounded in cases where personnel know that parts have been correctly installed and are safe for flight.

At times, F-35 squadron leaders have decided to fly an aircraft when ALIS has signaled not to, thus assuming operational risk to meet mission requirements. GAO found that DOD had not (1) developed a performance-measurement process for ALIS to define how the system should perform or (2) determined how ALIS issues were affecting overall F-35 fleet readiness, which remains below warfighter requirements. DOD recognizes that ALIS needs improvement and plans to leverage ongoing redesign efforts to eventually replace ALIS with a new logistics system. However, as DOD embarks on this effort, it faces key technical and programmatic uncertainties (see figure).

ALISThese uncertainties are complicated and will require significant planning and coordination with the F-35 program office, military services, international partners, and the prime contractor. For example, GAO reported in March 2020 that DOD had not determined the roles of DOD and the prime contractor in future system development and management. DOD had also not made decisions about the extent to which the new system will be hosted in the cloud as opposed to onsite servers at the squadron level. More broadly,

DOD has experienced significant challenges sustaining a growing F-35 fleet. GAO has made over 20 recommendations to address problems associated with ALIS, spare parts shortages, limited repair capabilities, and inadequate planning. DOD has an opportunity to re-imagine the F-35’s logistics system and improve operations, but it must approach this planning deliberately and thoroughly. Continued attention to these challenges will help ensure that DOD can effectively sustain the F-35 and meet warfighter requirements.

Key Technical and Programmatic Uncertainties Facing DOD as it Redesigns the F-35’s Logistics System

However, as we have reported over the past 6 years, DOD has faced key risks associated with ALIS that have contributed to challenges sustaining the F-35 fleet. Earlier this year, DOD stated that it intends to leverage ongoing re-design efforts and eventually replace ALIS with a new system that it has named the F-35 Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN). My statement today highlights (1) current user challenges with ALIS and its effects on the F-35 fleet and (2) key technical and programmatic uncertainties facing DOD as it re-designs the F-35’s logistics system. This statement is largely based on our March 2020 report on ALIS.1 It is also informed by our body of work issued from 2014 through 2020 addressing F-35 sustainment, affordability, ALIS, operations, and global supply chain. To perform this work, we analyzed DOD plans, program guidance, and F-35 performance; and we interviewed DOD, military service, and contractor officials at the headquarters’ level and at many military installations that house F-35 aircraft. Specifically, for our March 2020 report, we conducted site visits to 5 of the 10 U.S. F-35 locations— Luke Air Force Base, Edwards Air Force Base, Nellis Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, and Naval Air Station Lemoore.

We selected these locations to obtain perspectives from ALIS users from all U.S. services perspectives from a range of operational, training, and testing locations. We developed and used a data collection instrument to collect ALISrelated information from users (i.e. maintainers, pilots, supply personnel, contractors) at all 10 U.S. F-35 locations. Additionally, we met with officials from the F-35 Joint Program Office, MIT Lincoln Labs, Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems, Air Force Digital Service, Kessel Run (Air Force), and others to discuss ALIS-related improvement efforts. The reports listed on the Related Products Page provide more details on the scope and methodologies we used to carry out our work. We conducted the work on which this testimony is based in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

Although DOD and F-35 program officials agreed that ALIS continues to provide challenges for users and is generally not performing well, at the time of our March 2020 report, DOD still had not determined how it wanted the system to perform. For example, officials from the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force5 told us that testing for individual ALIS software version releases focuses primarily on whether the new version is performing “better” than the previous version. Specifically, ALIS testers have developed criteria to determine if the newest version of ALIS is functioning more efficiently than the previous version by comparing such tasks as screen download times. However, according to these officials, these tests are not determining if the ALIS system is performing to a specified standard because DOD has not defined this standard.

In September 2014, we recommended that DOD develop a performance measurement process for ALIS that includes, but is not limited to, performance metrics and targets that (1) are based on the intended behavior of the system in actual operations and (2) tie system performance to user requirements.6 The DOD Systems Engineering Guide for Systems of Systems states that to fully understand performance of systems of systems (such as ALIS), it is important to have a set of metrics that assess the system’s performance and trace back to user requirements because the system will likely evolve based on incremental changes—similar to ALIS’s incremental fielding. These metrics should measure the intended behavior and performance of the system in actual operations versus the progress of the development of the system,

These limited efforts represent squadron-specific initiatives, as no other F-35 location has tracked similar ALIS-related data. Further, the data collected by the two locations only capture non-mission capability rates when ALIS signals to ground the aircraft and makes the aircraft incapable of completing a mission. The data do not account for the workarounds users said they are routinely performing to circumvent a non-functioning aspect of ALIS in order to get an aircraft ready to fly, or the times when squadron leadership decides to fly the aircraft when ALIS signals otherwise. Additional factors can play a role in reducing F-35 aircraft readiness. For example, in April 2019, we reported that reduced aircraft performance was due largely to spare parts shortages.8 This conclusion was drawn from data that had been collected and tracked by both the contractor and DOD across the entire fleet to determine non-mission capability rates due to supply issues. Further, the F-35 program collects data on the degree to which maintenance issues are affecting F-35 mission capability.

Additionally, there are ongoing efforts to improve F-35 fleet readiness that are specifically targeted at supply and maintenance issues that are causing the significant mission-capability degradation. However, users and program officials stated that recurring issues with ALIS could also be affecting aircraft performance and noted that data on these issues are not being collected by the contractor or DOD. Although users reported multiple instances when ALIS-related issues grounded aircraft, these issues are being captured and categorized as either supply or maintenance-related issues, thus masking ALIS’s effect on fleet-wide readiness.

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