Joint Strike Fighter's Latest Problem: ODIN | Citizens Against Government Waste

Joint Strike Fighter's Latest Problem: ODIN

The WasteWatcher

Keeping track of all the difficulties facing Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a fulltime job.

One of the F-35’s more underreported problems is the long-term poor performance of the Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS).  ALIS has a multifaceted role that includes tracking and ordering spare parts, providing maintenance guidelines, and facilitating mission planning.

Unfortunately, like countless other areas of the JSF, the system is ridden with glitches.  ALIS is cumbersome, suffers from a lack of internet connectivity, and has experienced cost overruns and delays.  As a result, the Department of Defense (DOD) has struggled to fully deploy it.

According to a November 13, 2019 Defense News article, much of the problem with ALIS can be explained by the nature of the initial JSF contract awarded to Lockheed Martin, which granted near total control and expansive intellectual property (IP) rights.  The article states:  “…in recent years, dissatisfied by rising costs and delays, the Pentagon has sought to wrest more control back from Lockheed.  [IP] rights and disputes over proprietary data, however, have often tripped up such efforts”

As a result of ALIS’ problems, the DOD announced in January 2020 that it will be replaced by the cloud-based Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN), to be fielded by 2022.  Despite its failure to develop ALIS, Lockheed Martin will be charged with creating ODIN.

However, a March 16, 2020 Government Accountability Article (GAO) report identified ongoing concerns with the implementation of ODIN.  According to a March 17, 2020 Defense News article that quoted from the GAO report, “As DOD proceeds with replacing ALIS with ODIN, it will be imperative for the department to carefully consider and assess the key technical and programmatic uncertainties discussed in this report…These issues…are complex, and will require significant direction and leadership to resolve.”

Further, the GAO stated, “DOD lacks clarity about the goals of the re-design, such as the capabilities that will be included in the future system and the extent to which ALIS will be hosted in the cloud,” and, “…because it has not answered key questions about the future of the system, such as the extent to which the re-design will incorporate current ALIS software, DOD has not been able to develop accurate cost estimates for the ALIS re-design.”

It is incomprehensible to task the very contractor that was unable to successfully launch ALIS with developing ODIN.  A more logical plan would have been to rely on companies that already operate cloud-based services as part of their existing business structure, and who offer off-the-shelf platforms that might be retrofitted to accomplish the managing functions of ALIS and ODIN.  Of course, that sort of pragmatic approach has never been a hallmark of the JSF program, or DOD acquisition policy more broadly. 

Given the GAO’s concerns with ODIN, it appears the F-35 will continue to suffer from a shoddy logistics system.

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