Pentagon Can’t Find Millions of Dollars Worth of Parts for Premier F-35 Fighter Jet

Seaman Derek Kelley (, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pentagon is in the news again, this time thanks to a report that reveals they have lost copious amounts of F-35 fighter jet spare parts housed throughout the world. The F-35 is used not just by the United States but by our allies all over the globe, making it necessary for spare parts to be positioned at critical locations for when they are inevitably needed.

It turns out that the five-sided building isn’t sure where these parts are or who even has them. And yet they continue to be the most well-funded federal agency in the land.

Your tax dollars are hard at work purchasing massive amounts of military equipment from the military-industrial complex just to be lost to the void, perhaps falling into the hands of nefarious actors or illicit weapons dealers. So let’s dive in and discover how alarming this inventory discrepancy is.

Who Is In Charge?

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has discovered that the Pentagon has not been tracking tens of thousands of spare F-35 fighter jet parts worth millions of dollars.

The report said:

“Defense Department initially did not intend to own the F-35 assets, which include the global spare pool and support equipment, special tooling and special test equipment.”

The global pool the GAO refers to is inventory placed strategically throughout the globe for our allies to utilize for their F-35 jets. So why didn’t the Department of Defense think they would need to own the F-35 assets?

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Your guess is as good as mine. The report goes on to explain what has been happening in its stead:

“Because DOD did not develop a plan to address this…the prime contractors continued to maintain accountability.”

The prime contractors that have been doing the job of the DOD would be Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney. But since it isn’t actually their responsibility, the fidelity of this inventory is questionable at best.

Not A Clue

The GAO report nails the Pentagon program office in charge of the F-35, stating:

“The F-35 Joint Program Office was unable to provide the cost, total quantity and locations of spare parts in the global spares pool, and continues to rely on the prime contractor’s records for this information.”

Think about that for a spell. The office that is staffed and equipped by you, the taxpayer, and is expected to know all things related to the F-35 has no idea how many spare parts we have, how many are lost, how much was paid for them by our allies, or even how much they are worth.

The GAO noted that the program office had spent about $12 million in the past three years to get a handle on the spare parts inventory. Whose money? Your money.

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I argue that is not money well spent. Add to that these spare parts are meant for a global pool inventory; you should be even more enraged.

Our F-35 spare parts are just out for our allies to take as they please as if we operate these inventories similar to community pantries or libraries. However, instead of ‘take a can, leave a can’ or ‘take a book, leave a book,’ it would seem we operate in a ‘take an Electro-Optical Targeting System leave whatever you want’ system.

Nobody Cares

If you’ve been paying any attention, it’s clear that the Pentagon has yet to develop a concept of basic accounting or inventory practices. In February, they were forced to admit that they had lost nearly $220 billion worth of equipment given out to military contractors over the years.

To explain to you what that means, in various locations worldwide, there are civilian contractors that work for the military. These contractors are often given for a short period cool military gear and equipment to use for the execution of their duties in support of the DOD.

Ideally, these contractors return these cool gadgets, but most do not, it would seem. If that’s not bad enough, last year, the Pentagon failed its fifth consecutive audit, only accounting for about 39% of its $3.5 trillion worth of assets.

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That means 60% of all assets owned by the Pentagon are unaccounted for or, to put it plainly – lost. And this week, the Pentagon let us all know that due to an accounting error, they were able to “free up” $3 billion for aid to Ukraine.

Their wording is hilarious, as if we should be thankful that they were able to “free up” funds for Ukraine, as opposed to alarmed that they overvalued weapons already sent. Undoubtedly, some officer got a medal for discovering those “extra funds.”

No Need To Balance

Every day I balance my checkbook. I don’t do it in the same fashion that my mother balances hers; as a millennial, I have embraced technology and do all my balancing of my personal books and small business via my computer. 

I also keep a reasonably tight month-to-month budget that is reviewed regularly. I do this because, as a regular American citizen that is relatively responsible, I know that my money and my things are my responsibility to manage effectively. 

But this same principle doesn’t apply to the men and women in the five-sided building. Think about it, at this point, when they get caught, they just openly admit to not having a clue where their stuff is, and our elected politicians continue to keep giving them more stuff!

In 2021 Congress requested $30 billion more than President Biden requested for the defense budget. In 2022 President Biden increased his initial request from $780 billion to $813 billion. Then Congress asked for an additional $45 billion taking it to a record-breaking $858 billion. 

This year Biden is expected to request $886 billion, a 3% increase from last year, making it the largest peacetime military budget in history—more money for the Pentagon to lose. For some perspective, according to World Population Review, Uncle Sam spends $150 billion more every year than the next 10 countries combined.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said yesterday that cuts to defense spending are “off the table.”

Why is that? Because according to him, the defense of our country is imperative, and spending (or losing) copious amounts of taxpayer dollars in its name is the only way to keep us safe. 

You aren’t fooling anyone, Kevin. Don’t believe the hype; America, Congress isn’t concerned with the defense of this nation because if they were, they would hold the Pentagon accountable for doing such a terrible job of it.

Instead, they are concerned with the defense lobbying beast that whispers sweet nothings in their ears year after year. 

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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