COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on American Indians

American Indian communities are reporting high rates of COVID-19 infection and voicing concerns that they may be more at risk and less able to respond to the pandemic.

In today’s WatchBlog, we look at some of the factors that may be contributing to a higher number of infections among American Indians and our reports about these issues.  

American Indian health outcomes

The life expectancy of American Indians is 5.5 years shorter than all other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Their lower life expectancy is attributed to health conditions like diabetes, chronic liver disease, and chronic lower respiratory diseases—the same conditions that tend to place individuals at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Respiratory conditions are also associated with a lack of clean water, which is not readily available for many American Indians. These health disparities highlight the need to ensure quality health care and clean water for American Indians, but accessing them may still be a challenge.   

GAO recently testified that factors like provider vacancies, oversight weaknesses, inadequate funding, and budget uncertainty directly affect how federal agencies provide services to tribes and its members.

Provider vacancies

Indian Health Service (IHS) has had difficulties in filling provider vacancies for several years, which has made it hard for some American Indians to access health care. In 2017, the overall provider vacancy was 25%. IHS has made some progress in recruiting and retaining providers by offering financial incentives or contracting with temporary providers, but long-term vacancies continue to exist. Additionally, temporary providers may interrupt a patient’s continuity of care, possibly delay necessary treatments, and may cost more than permanent providers.

The figure below shows the number of providers and the provider vacancy rate in each Indian Health Service Area as of 2017:

Oversight of quality of health care

We previously found weaknesses in IHS’s oversight of the quality of care American Indians receive. This also impairs the agency’s ability to ensure they receive proper diagnoses and treatments. We found inconsistent reporting of quality data and adverse events across health facilities, which makes it more difficult to monitor patients’ quality of care. IHS has made progress in improving its reporting system, but some of these efforts have been temporarily stalled due to COVID-19.  

Water project funding and distribution 

Tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives do not have safe drinking water or wastewater disposal in their homes for handwashing, which may leave them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Although IHS works continuously with tribes to identify water project needs, these projects are extremely costly to implement. In 2016, tribes and federal agencies estimated that over $5 billion was needed to address existing and future drinking water and sanitation concerns but only had $370 million reserved for water projects. Additionally, we reported that IHS’ and the Department of Agriculture’s processes do not effectively prioritize water projects in tribal areas with the highest need. IHS is currently working with tribes to improve these processes to better plan future water projects.

Budget uncertainty

Budget uncertainty—particularly during government shutdowns or when a budget isn’t passed— can exacerbate problems for American Indians’ access to care. In November 2019, we testified that during our audit work, IHS and tribal-run facilities had told us that budget uncertainty may make it more difficult to retain and recruit health care staff, which creates gaps in care and increases administrative costs to the IHS.

The CARES Act provides direct funding to the IHS for pandemic response. A portion of this funding will be used to expand telehealth services, meet medical equipment needs, and provide testing kits to Indian health programs.

For more detailed information about any of the federal challenges related to serving tribes and their members, be sure to check out our reports.


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Disease modeling: How Math Can Help In A Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new attention to models of infectious disease. These models are critical tools that scientists—including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—use to anticipate health care needs and explore options for responding to an outbreak.

Today’s WatchBlog looks at the basics of infectious disease modeling, which we reviewed in a recent 2-page Spotlight. It also looks at our recent report on how federal agencies like the CDC use modeling, and how they might improve their use.

The many uses of models

Mathematical models are sets of equations that try to capture a complicated reality in a simplified form. No equation can encompass all of reality, so the idea is to capture enough of it to improve our ability to understand and predict.

In the case of COVID-19, sometimes that means using statistics about how the disease spreads in one place to predict what will happen in another. Such models, known as “statistical” models, have helped hospitals and governments prepare for things like surges in demand for intensive care unit beds and ventilators.

But prediction is not the only use for disease models. Some “mechanistic” models try to portray how diseases spread. One common version categorizes a hypothetical population by disease status—using terms like susceptible, exposed, infectious, or recovered—and then estimates how often people move from one category to another. These models can be particularly helpful in exploring what might happen under various policy scenarios.

For example, a COVID-19 model built by researchers at Imperial College London looked at a hypothetical scenario in which social distancing was not used. At one point, the model projected over 2 million U.S. deaths by October 2020. This estimate now seems inaccurate, but it was based on a scenario that, thankfully, did not come to pass.

This model proved valuable not by showing us what is going to happen, but what might have been. (For those who want more information about social distancing, we published a Spotlight on that, too.)

The figure below shows the 2 broad categories of infectious disease models: mechanistic models, which use scientific understanding of disease dynamics and human behavior, and statistical models, which rely only on patterns in the data.

The state of federal disease modeling

We also recently issued a report on federal modeling efforts for past outbreaks of three infectious diseases: Ebola, Zika, and pandemic influenza.

In this report, one of our key findings was that the CDC modelers did not always provide the details needed to reproduce their results. We recommended that they do so, because reproducibility provides a key check on scientific accuracy.

However, we also found that modelers at the CDC and elsewhere in the federal government largely followed GAO-identified commonly recognized modeling practices, despite often facing urgent outbreaks and shortages of the data they need. The evidence we found for the soundness of their work may be a reason for optimism amid the current pandemic.

Want to know more? Check out our Science & Tech Spotlight on infectious disease modeling, and our report on modeling at federal agencies, released in June 2020.


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Quantum Technology Leaping Toward Reality

Quantum physics is a tough subject to study. Even revered physicist Richard Feynman once wrote that even “physics has given up” trying to fully understand it. But that does not mean human ingenuity cannot harness the mysteries of quantum physics for practical advantage.

In today’s WatchBlog, we explore quantum technology, which would use quantum physics to revolutionize navigation, encryption, and other technologies. Such advances would come with major implications for the U.S. military and federal cybersecurity.

The image shows a trapped ion qubit (a quantum bit) test bed in the Quantum Information and Integrated Nanosystems Group at Lincoln Laboratory.

Baffling science, transformative technology

Quantum physics studies the behavior of the smallest particles of matter or energy, which sometimes behave in ways that seem impossible. For example, such particles can be in multiple states at once—a property known as “superposition.” They can also be “entangled”—linked in a way that lets you get information about one particle instantaneously by measuring another.

Quantum technology takes advantage of these properties. The most advanced of these technologies is quantum sensors, which could improve the navigation of military aircraft and other vehicles. Here’s how it works: gyroscopes that measure entangled light particles in superposition could measure the rotation and orientation of airplanes with unprecedented precision. This would allow pilots to know their location and speed even if an adversary were blocking their GPS signals.

Another potential innovation is quantum communication—which would be perfectly secure. Information would be sent with the help of particles in superposition, and any attempt at eavesdropping would cause the particles’ superposition to collapse (a dead giveaway if you know how to look for it).

Imagine a quantum computer that uses “qubits.” Unlike a bit from a conventional computer, which encodes either a 0 or a 1, a qubit can be in multiple configurations simultaneously, existing as both 0 and 1 until its properties are measured. This superposition could let quantum computers quickly solve certain math problems that today would take centuries, even with the best supercomputers.

One of those problems—the factoring of large numbers—happens to be at the heart of common modern encryption techniques. A quantum computer could thus allow its owner to efficiently unencrypt messages that use such encryption. Conversely, linking quantum computers via quantum communication could produce a perfectly secure quantum internet.

Challenges to overcome

But, there are significant obstacles to these technologies.  For example, a quantum computer would need to maintain its qubits at temperatures close to absolute zero.

Once these are overcome, we still won’t understand how small particles do things that seem impossible. But we will have used these impossible behaviors to build practical—and potentially transformative—technologies.

Want to know more? Check out our Science & Tech Spotlight on quantum technologies, and our 2018 report on quantum computing and other potentially transformational tech.


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Reverse Mortgages Present Benefits and Risks for Senior Homeowners

You’ve seen them advertised on T.V. and asked, “What is a reverse mortgage?”

A reverse mortgage is a loan available to senior homeowners (62 years and older) that allows them to convert part of the equity in their homes into payments from lenders. Seniors may use reverse mortgages to help supplement their Social Security or other retirement income.

Reverse mortgages saw a surge in popularity during the last financial crisis (2007-2009). Homeowners facing financial struggles under the current economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic might also be considering a reverse mortgage to supplement their income. While they can be used as financial tools to allow older homeowners to stay in their homes, they come with risks.  

Unlike traditional (or “forward”) mortgages, a reverse mortgage does not require a borrower to repay the loan as long as they meet certain conditions such as maintaining their home and paying property taxes and homeowners insurance. Also unlike forward mortgages, reverse mortgages do not have fixed terms (for example 30 years). Instead, the loan is in place until the borrower dies, pays off the loan, leaves the property (for example, if the borrower sells the home), or defaults. At that point, the loan terminates and the senior (or their heirs) have to pay back the loan.

The vast majority of reverse mortgages are made under the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, which is administered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA insures private lenders against loan losses. As of the end of fiscal year 2018, FHA had insured more than 1 million HECMs, which included about 630,000 active loans and about 468,000 terminated loans.

Congress established the HECM program in 1988 to help meet the financial needs of elderly homeowners. However, in recent years, a growing percentage of reverse mortgages have ended because borrowers defaulted on their loans.

Why would a loan that requires no monthly payments default?

Reverse mortgage borrowers can default if they violate conditions of the mortgage. For example, a borrower might fail to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance. A reverse mortgage might also default if the borrower no longer occupies the home as a primary residence or has not kept the home in good repair.

When a reverse mortgage defaults and the loan terminates, seniors are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.

In a 2019 report, we found that defaults increased from 2% of loan terminations in 2014 to 18% in 2018, mostly due to borrowers failing to meet occupancy requirements or paying property taxes and insurance. We also found that FHA’s data did not show the reason for a large number of terminations. In 2015, FHA allowed loan servicers to put borrowers who are behind on property charges onto repayment plans to help prevent foreclosures for these seniors. But only about 22 percent of these borrowers had received this option.

Reported Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Termination Reasons, Fiscal Years 2014-2018

We also found that FHA could do a better job evaluating the performance of its reverse mortgage program and overseeing the companies that service these loans. We made 9 recommendations to improve FHA’s oversight of reverse mortgages and testified before Congress about our findings in September 2019.

Check out our recently issued report, testimony, and podcast to learn more about reverse mortgages and FHA’s oversight. And also tune into our podcast with Director Alicia Puente Cackley to learn more about reverse mortgages.


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Alicia Puente Cackley at cackleya@gao.gov.
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.

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The Reward and Risk of Expediting COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Development

U.S. scientists are working quickly to develop new tests and vaccines to identify and combat COVID-19. They have already developed 3 kinds of tests and begun development on numerous potential vaccines.

Developing a new test or vaccine, however, is a complex process. With the reward of quick work also comes risks. Today’s WatchBlog looks at both when it comes to moving rapidly to fight the coronavirus.

COVID-19 testing

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has streamlined its regulatory process to get more tests into the hands of medical providers. For example, by using its emergency use authorization authority, FDA has already allowed the use of more than 60 tests.

The figure below shows how the 2 most common kinds of tests–molecular and serology–can detect whether someone is currently infected or has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. For example, a molecular test detects the presence of the virus’s genetic material. Serology tests detect the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins made in response to an infection. Antibodies can be found in the blood of people who have been exposed to the virus.

COVID-19 vaccines

FDA can also use its emergency authority—combined with approaches like Fast Track (a process designed to speed up the review and approval of new therapies for the treatment and prevention of serious or life-threatening conditions such as COVID-19)— to move potential vaccines into clinical trials faster than usual. This could help shorten the amount of time needed to develop a vaccine, helping save lives and accelerate economic recovery.

The figure below shows the differences between traditional vaccine development and a potential accelerated timeline.

Note: This graphic was updated on May 28, 2020 to show that phases of vaccine development overlap and clarify accelerated timeline dates.

Risks of moving too quickly

While responding quickly has its benefits, there are also risks.

Accelerating vaccine development could result in less time spent on evaluating the safety of the vaccine. Some patients could experience serious adverse effects. Shortening the timeline could also mean that scientists learn less about the potential range of adverse effects.

Moving quickly to authorize and distribute tests may increase risks associated with their accuracy. As a result, there is the potential that some tests could show patients have not been exposed to or infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 when they actually have been. In addition, while tests may be developed quickly, their widespread use could be limited by the availability of supplies required to conduct testing safely, including swabs and personal protective equipment.

Finding the right balance between speed and safety, accuracy, and effectiveness is challenging. It requires careful assessment and may need to be adjusted over time.

Want to know more? Check out our Science & Tech Spotlights on COVID-19 Testing and COVID-19 Vaccine Development. GAO has a broad portfolio of work on the federal government’s response to and preparedness for infectious diseases, viruses, and biological threats including ZikaEbolaAvian Influenza, and H1N1.


Questions on the content of this post? Contact Karen Howard at HowardK@gao.gov.

Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.

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A Snapshot of Government-wide Contracting for FY 2019 (infographic)

From health care to helicopters, the government spends about 40% of its discretionary spending on contracts for goods and services.

In FY 2019, the federal government spent more than $586 billion on these contracts, an increase of over $20 billion from FY 2018. This increase is largely driven by spending on services for national defense. Our infographic shows more details on how federal contracting dollars are spent across the federal government—including which agencies obligated the most funds, what they bought, and whether the contracts were competed. Trends for FY 2019 remain largely the same as FY 2018 and do not reflect spending on COVID-19 response in 2020.

 


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Bill Woods at woodsw@gao.gov.
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.

 

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The Watchdog is Afoot!

Sherlock Holmes might be literature’s most famous detective, but he can still surprise you. For example, did you know that in the original books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock never actually said “Elementary, my dear Watson”?

May 22 is Sherlock Holmes Day. To celebrate, today’s WatchBlog highlights some little-known facts about our own investigators and analysts in GAO’s Forensic Audits and Investigative Service team—and the surprising things they’ve found in recent years.

Exposing fraud

In The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, Mycroft Holmes is introduced as Sherlock’s older brother—and a government auditor. Holmes credits his brother with being the “most indispensable man in the country.” While we know that Mycroft probably did more than audit the government’s books, we’ll still take the compliment.

Our analysts do provide important insight into fraud in federal programs. For instance, they’ve found fraud risks in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program—such as “sham” schools that help students get visas to live in the U.S. without requiring that they attend classes.

Our investigators have also looked into fraud in the Head Start program. Investigators attempted to enroll fictitious children at 15 Head Start centers using information that should have disqualified their applications—like pay stubs that exceeded income requirements. We found potential fraud at 5 of these centers, such as schools doctoring our applications to exclude disqualifying information.

Masters of disguise

Sherlock Holmes often disguised himself during investigations. For instance, he played the part of a drunken, out-of-work groom to get into Irene Adler’s house in A Scandal in Bohemia.

Our investigators don’t wear disguises, but they have gone undercover for operations. For example, GAO was asked to look into whether the campuses at the National Institute of Standards and Technology—a U.S. national laboratory that conducts research on sensitive areas like bioscience and manufacturing—were secure. But our investigators were able to gain unauthorized access to various areas of these campuses in Maryland and Colorado.

Hot tips

Sherlock Holmes relies on the public to bring him interesting cases. Case in point: in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes for advice after his friend (Sir Charles Baskerville) is found dead in the park near his house.

Like Sherlock, GAO also needs help from the public. In addition to our regular efforts to investigate fraud, we have been tasked by Congress to monitor the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for fraud. To help us with these efforts, we are turning to the public for help identifying fraud, waste, or abuse.

You can report any of your concerns related to fraud in federal programs or the CARES Act to GAO’s FraudNet using:

  • Our online reporting portal
  • Via email at Fraud@gao.gov
  • Or by calling our hotline at 1-800-424-5454

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, FraudNet staff are working remotely to maintain social distancing. As a result, we strongly encourage you to submit your concern online so we may provide a more timely response.

To learn more about our intrepid investigators, check out our website.


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Howard Arp at ArpJ@gao.gov.
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.
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Protecting Nursing Home Residents from Infections like COVID-19.

Recent COVID-19 related deaths at nursing homes have raised concerns about the health and safety of the nation’s 1.4 million residents living in these facilities.

In today’s WatchBlog, we look at the federal role in protecting nursing home residents and our recent report that identified ongoing gaps in this effort that pre-date the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nursing home infection control

There are about 15,500 nursing homes in the United States. Federal standards require that these facilities establish and maintain infection prevention and control programs.

While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is responsible for ensuring that these facilities have programs and safety measures in place,  it relies on state agencies to conduct surveys and investigations of facilities to ensure nursing homes comply with federal standards.

Deficiencies in meeting these standards can include situations where, for example, nursing home staff did not regularly use proper hand hygiene or failed to implement preventive measures during an infectious disease outbreak like isolating sick residents. Many of these practices can be critical to preventing the spread of infectious disease, including COVID-19.

What we found

Our review of nursing homes, which pre-dated the COVID-19 pandemic, looked at data from Medicare & Medicaid and showed that infection prevention and control deficiencies were widespread among most nursing homes and often persistently found over multiple years. Infection prevention and control were the most commonly cited deficiencies in surveyed nursing homes. Between 2013 and 2017, 82% (13,299) of nursing homes were cited with an infection prevention control deficiency in one or more years. About 48% (6,327) of those nursing homes had multiple consecutive years of citations for deficiencies.

In each individual year from 2013 through 2017, the percent of surveyed nursing homes with an infection prevention and control deficiency ranged from 39 percent to 41 percent. In 2018 and 2019, we found that this continued with about 40 percent of surveyed nursing homes having an infection prevention and control deficiency cited each year.

We also found that in each year from 2013 through 2017, 99% of the infection prevention and control deficiencies were classified by state surveyors as “not severe.” As a result Medicare & Medicaid enforcement actions against nursing homes were only taken for 1% of these deficiencies. Furthermore, 67 percent of these infection prevention and control deficiencies classified as “not severe” did not have any enforcement actions imposed or implemented, and 31 percent had enforcement actions imposed but not implemented—meaning the nursing home likely had an opportunity to correct the deficiency before an enforcement action was imposed.

To learn more about our findings, tune in to our podcast with John Dicken, a director in our Health Care team.

The figure below shows the number of nursing homes with cited deficiencies in multiple years, between 2013 and 2017.

Note: CMS restructured its deficiency code system beginning on November 28, 2017, and, due to these coding changes, we did not analyze CMS data cited by surveyors from November 28, 2017, through December 31, 2017. Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Help from the Cares Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has provided $200 million to CMS to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. Of that money, Congress has directed CMS to use at least $100 million on nursing home facilities in localities where the coronavirus has spread. Further, since the COVID-19 pandemic, HHS has taken a number of actions, including targeting nursing home inspections on infection prevention and control, providing new guidance for nursing homes, and enhancing reporting of nursing home infections.

To learn more about these issues, as well as how the federal government is responding to COVID-19, check out our website.


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Our plan to save the government tens of billions of dollars through reducing fragmentation, overlap and duplication.

The federal government has made an unprecedented financial response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. At the same time, opportunities exist for achieving tens of billions of dollars in financial savings and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a wide range of federal programs in other areas.

Today we released our 10th annual report on opportunities to reduce spending and address fragmentation, overlap, and duplication within the federal government. Over the past decade, our annual reports have helped the federal government improve operations and save about $429 billion. Today’s WatchBlog explores.

How reducing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication saves taxpayer money

Since 2011, we’ve been reporting on ways the government can be more efficient and save taxpayers’ money by looking for agencies and programs that:

  • work on similar or different parts of the same goal (fragmentation)
  • have similar goals or provide similar services (overlap)
  • work on the same activities or provide the same services (duplication)

Our new report includes 168 new actions that Congress or agency leaders can take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government in 29 new areas and in 10 existing areas.

For example:

  • Improved coordination and communication between the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and its emergency support agencies—including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs—could help address fragmentation and ensure the effective provision of public health and medical services during a public health emergency.
  • The U.S. Navy could save billions of dollars by improving its acquisition practices and ensuring that ships can be efficiently sustained.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard could address fragmentation and better communicate lessons learned in contracting following a disaster.
  • The Internal Revenue Service could save billions of dollars by improving its efforts to prevent identity theft refund fraud.
  • The Government National Mortgage Association’s (Ginnie Mae) operations and risk management could be more efficient and effective, reducing costs or enhancing federal revenue by tens of millions of dollars annually.
  • By implementing a process to monitor orders and resolve outstanding reimbursements, the Department of Defense could recover millions of dollars in overdue repayments for sales made to foreign partners.

Fully addressing new actions and those that remain open from our prior reports could lead to tens of billions of dollars in additional financial benefits. Want to find out more? Check out our Action Tracker to explore the hundreds of other actions we’ve identified.

Find out more about our new report by tuning into our podcast with Director Jessica Lucas-Judy.

Some examples of previously identified actions that could save billions

  • The Department of Energy may be able to reduce certain risks by adopting alternative approaches to treat some of its low-activity radioactive waste, potentially saving tens of billions of dollars.
  • Medicare could save billions of dollars annually if Congress equalized the rates Medicare pays for certain health care services (payment rates currently vary by location).
  • Unless the Department of Energy can demonstrate demand for new Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loans and viable applications, Congress may wish to consider rescinding all or part of the remaining credit subsidy appropriations—potentially saving more than $4 billion.
  • If the Department of the Interior improved management of federal oil and gas resources, $1.7 billion could be saved over 10 years.

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F-35: DOD’s Next Top Gun Aircraft Needs More Time and Attention

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet is critical to national—and international—security. But its stealth technology, advanced sensors, and networking capabilities don’t come cheap: it’s the most expensive weapon program in U.S. military history.

Several partner countries have contributed funds and agreed to buy jets, while a number of other countries have signed on to purchase them through the Department of Defense’s foreign military sales.

The F-35 program has been delivering jets since 2007, but full-rate production—to meet the demand for jets—can’t start until the program is ready. We’ve been updating Congress regularly on the program’s readiness, including the cost, schedule, and other risks it faces.

We’ll look at our most recent update in today’s WatchBlog.

Can They Build It Right?

The contractor building the “airframes” (jet bodies) says it’s ready. We found that the program is on track to meet 6 of the 8 leading practices for manufacturing readiness. But the remaining 2 practices are key to preventing future quality issues that would add to the $428 billion overall cost of the program.

  • Production processes should consistently lead to a high quality product without defects or rework. The contractor is still changing some of its processes, and not always following its established processes well. In 2018, the Air Force found corrosion between the surface panels and the frame because the contractor didn’t apply primer when it attached the panels. In 2019, a mechanic found titanium fasteners in an area of the aircraft where the design calls for stronger fasteners.  
  • The product should meet its goals for reliability and maintenance time. Over 500 F-35s that are in the field now aren’t meeting their reliability goals—they’re more likely than expected to be in maintenance rather than available for operations.

Can They Build Enough?

There are already parts shortages and supply chain issues that make it hard to increase production. In April 2019, F-35s in the field weren’t meeting users’ requirements, largely because of trouble getting spare parts.

In July 2019, Turkey—an international partner—was suspended from the program. The program was ordered to stop placing parts orders with Turkish suppliers after March 2020, which means that they had to find new suppliers for 1,005 airframe and engine parts while also increasing production. The program found new suppliers by the end of 2019, but it may still be hard to ensure that they can meet the increased demands of full-rate production.

Is It Ready for Emerging Threats?

The F-35’s computer systems are due for an upgrade to help them address emerging threats. There has been substantial cost and schedule growth in this modernization effort. DOD now expects it to cost $12.1 billion—an increase of $1.5 billion since May 2019.

Also, the program had planned to deliver 8 new capabilities in 2019, but it has only delivered 1 so far. Delivery of the remaining 65 capabilities was delayed and is now expected to take another 2 years, through 2024.

We made 5 recommendations to help DOD address some of these production and modernization risks. Check them out in our report.


· Questions on the content of this post? Contact Jon Ludwigson at LudwigsonJ@gao.gov.

· Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.

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