Diana Maurer, director of defense capabilities & management at the Government Accountability Office discusses ways to fix the F-35’s diagnostic system.
The F-35 program has seen many setbacks and delays, but one has been a consistent thorn in operations for the plane. The Autonomic Logistics Information System has been an issue since the Air Force contracted for the plane, and the Government Accountability Office is keeping tabs on it. Diana Maurer, director of defense capabilities & management at GAO, says that the system works on paper, but that getting it working has been a major challenge for the Pentagon. “ALIS was designed to be really the brains of the F-35. The hope was it would allow DoD to have the planes fly more frequently and at lower cost. The concept is you plug the plane into the system before it takes off and do a quick diagnostic check and make sure everything is working okay. You upload information the pilot needs for the mission, the mission’s executed and they land and plug back into the system and get another readout. In theory, DoD has a lot of information on individual parts and individual performance with this data they can repair things more quickly and at lower cost. Unfortunately, the reality has been far from that,” Maurer said. “DoD was challenged among other things with not being an informed buyer of what the contractor was doing to develop the system. DoD basically told the contractor to go out and develop a system. The Defense Department then focused on developing, producing and deploying the aircraft… but they didn’t pay sufficient attention to important sustainment issues like ALIS.” Maurer told Government Matters that GAO’s recommendations are being heard and implemented by the Air Force, but there’s still work to be done. “Over the years we’ve made a number of recommendations about the F-35 and more specifically on ALIS. One of our primary ones from out report in 2016 was that DoD not take a piecemeal approach to modernizing and fixing ALIS.” Maurer said. “At the time of that report, there were a number of individual plans to fix specific issues, it was too heavy to be deployed, there were concerns about cybersecurity, concerns about the accuracy in the information that mechanics are receiving. They had Individual efforts. We thought ‘Bring it up to a higher level and do a comprehensive plan.’ They have since done that. We are in the process of seeing where those plans are being executed and what impact it is making.”