WASHINGTON, D.C. - A government watchdog is recommending Congress should consider withholding funding for the next phase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development until critical deficiencies are addressed.
The June report from the Government Accountability Office says that the Department of Defense is getting close to completing the F-35 program, but plans for full-rate production are moving ahead while critical deficiencies have not been resolved.
As such, the GAO says it brings into question the reliability and affordability of the fighter jets.
The Joint Strike Fighter includes variants for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
The C variant for the Navy is capable of landing and taking off from aircraft carriers.
The B variant developed for the Marine Corps has short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities.
The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the F-35 program office to resolve all critical deficiencies before making a full-rate production decision.
In the Department of Defense response from Kevin Fahey, assistant Secretary of Defense for acquisition, the DOD concurred with the recommendation and wrote "the Department expects the F-35 program to resolve all critical deficiencies prior to entering Initial Operational Test and Evaluation."
The Department of Defense asked for $9.8 billion in the FY2019 budget for the F-35 program, with plans to ask for $10.4 billion a year over the next two decades.
A decision on full-rate production is expected in October 2019.