What GAO Found
Fifteen years into development, the CH-53K program has made progress in testing the aircraft. Program documentation indicates that there is a moderate risk of not demonstrating the required levels of reliability or payload carrying weight by the end of operational testing.
The technical issues identified during testing caused program milestones to slip. For example, the full-rate production decision was delayed by nearly 7 years—from December 2015 to November 2022. CH-53K total program costs also increased by nearly $15.3 billion since the program began due to technical issues and a quantity increase fielded helicopters from 156 to 200.
The program faces several challenges going forward.
- First, the schedule for completing the development of the CH-53K does not meet all of the leading practices, which makes the schedule unreliable. Specifically, GAO found that the master schedule is not fully credible or well-constructed. For example, the schedule indicates there is more flexibility in the schedule than it truly has, which can affect the ability to change allocated resources appropriately to meet schedule milestones.
- Second, the program faces potential further cost increases due to concurrency—or overlap between testing and procurement—which has increased due to delays in the completion of testing. In previous reviews of weapon systems, GAO found that while some concurrency is understandable, it can also result in cost increases and schedule delays, and deny timely, critical information to policy makers. Concurrency, coupled with plans for increased numbers of helicopters to be produced, beyond the six per year currently being built, could result in costly retrofits to helicopters built before the completion of operational testing. This testing will provide decision makers needed information on the resolution of the technical issues facing the program (see figure).
CH-53K Helicopter Testing and Procurement, Fiscal Years 2017-2030
Why GAO Did This Study
The Marine Corps is replacing its aging CH-53E helicopters with the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter. Designed as an evolution of the CH-53E, the CH-53K is intended to transport armored vehicles, equipment, and personnel from ships to deep inland locations. The CH-53K program office is overseen by the Department of the Navy. As we have previously reported, the program has experienced delayed milestones and cost increases from almost its inception in 2005, in part, due to technical issues.
GAO was asked to review the CH-53K program. This report examines the program’s (1) progress toward completing testing and demonstrating system experience, (2) schedule and cost performance to date, and (3) potential future challenges.
GAO analyzed cost, schedule, performance, test, manufacturing, and planning documents; and interviewed officials from the CH-53K program office, other defense offices—such as the Defense Contract Management Agency—the testing community, and the prime contractor, Sikorsky.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that the Navy take steps to ensure the CH-53K schedule is credible and well-constructed, and that the Navy should not exceed the current annual procurement of six helicopters per year until the completion of initial operational test and evaluation. The Department of Defense did not concur with these recommendations. GAO continues to believe that the recommendations are valid, as discussed in this report.
For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Congress Urged to Adopt Judicial Security MeasuresBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsSeptember 9, 2020Citing the recent fatal attack at the home of a federal judge in New Jersey and increasing threats against federal judges, the Judiciary has asked Congress to enact a package of safety measures that would improve security at judges’ homes and at federal courthouses.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Swiss President ParmelinBy Sam NewsFebruary 2, 2021
- Puerto Rico CPA Indicted and Arrested on Wire Fraud Charges in Relation to Act 20 and Act 22 SchemeBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020On Oct. 14, 2020, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging Gabriel F. Hernández, with ten counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1343, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney, District of Puerto Rico, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Tyler R. Hatcher, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office. The indictment was unsealed this week after the arrest of the defendant by federal law enforcement officers from IRS-CI.[Read More…]
- This Week in Iran PolicyBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Founder and CEO of Iranian Financial Services Firm Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Violate U.S. SanctionsBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the sentencing of Seyed Sajjad Shahidian, 33, to 23 months in prison for his role in conducting financial transactions in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Shahidian, who pleaded guilty on June 18, 2018, was sentenced today before Judge Patrick J. Schiltz in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shahidian, a citizen of Iran, was arrested in London, England on Nov. 11, 2018, and, on May 15, 2020, was extradited to the United States.[Read More…]