By Bill Goldston
April 6, 2011 - The United States Government
Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report that
has addressed the early difficulties and adopted
strategies to address future risks of the CH-53K
The United States Marine Corps is facing a critical
shortage of heavy-lift aircraft. In addition, current
weapon systems are heavier than their predecessors,
further challenging the Marine Corps's current CH-53E
To address the emerging heavy-lift requirements, the Marine Corps initiated the CH-53K Heavy Lift Replacement program, which has experienced significant cost increase and schedule delays since entering development in 2005.
report determines how the CH-53K's estimates of cost, schedule,
and quantity have changed since the program began development
and the impact of these changes and determines how the CH-53K's
current acquisition strategy will meet current program targets
as well as the warfighter's needs.
these objectives, GAO analyzed the program's budget, schedules,
acquisition reports, and other documents and interviewed
officials from the program office, the prime contractor's
office, the Marine Corps, the Defense Contract Management
Agency, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
helicopter mission is to provide combat assault transport of
heavy weapons, equipment, and supplies from sea to support
Marine Corps operations ashore. Since the program began
development in December 2005, its total cost estimate has grown
by almost $6.8 billion, from nearly $18.8 billion to over $25.5
billion as a result of a Marine Corps-directed quantity increase
from 156 to 200 aircraft and schedule delays. The majority of
the program's total cost growth is due to added quantities.
Development cost growth and schedule delays resulted from beginning development before determining how to achieve requirements within program constraints, with miscommunication between the program office and prime contractor about systems engineering tasks and with late staffing by both the program office and the contractor.
The program has
also deferred three performance capabilities and relaxed two
maintenance-based technical performance metrics in an effort to defer
cost. Delivery of the CH-53K to the warfighter is currently scheduled
for 2018, a delay of almost 3 years.
The CH-53K program
has made progress addressing the difficulties it faced early in system
development. It held a successful critical design review in July 2010
and has adopted mitigation strategies to address future program risk.
The program's new strategy, as outlined in the President's fiscal year
2012 budget, lengthens the development schedule, increases development
funding, and delays the production decision.
However, adjustments made to the budget submitted to Congress reduce the program's fiscal year 2012 development funding by $30.5 million (and by a total of $94.6 million between fiscal years 2010 and 2015).
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