July 23 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin declined to promise lawmakers it would fully reimburse the Department of Defense for defective equipment files relating to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter during a Congressional hearing this week.
Members of the House Oversight Committee criticized the defense contractor and Pentagon officials for failing to fix the F-35's maintenance system, saying they were putting lives at risk by failing to act on the problem.
"Fix this now, before you have blood on your hands," said Rep. Rashida Talib, D-Mich.
House Democrats were particularly harsh, but criticism came from both sides of the aisle.
"We cannot simply hope that these accidents never occur. These problems must be addressed," said the committee chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who said she is considering legislation "to ensure that F-35 is meeting performance expectations."
Maloney pointed out that Lockheed was expected to make paid $41 billion in revenue from federal government contracts.
"For that much money, we can expect Lockheed to deliver products that work and that keep our service members safe," she said. "Anything else is unacceptable."
At issue during Wednesday's hearing were the aircraft's electronic equipment logs, which show the history of crucial F-35 parts throughout their lifespans.
The files help determine when a part will fail, which parts are compatible with which planes, according to officials.
But Lockheed is trying to use logs for only 400 parts that need them, as opposed to 1,000 it needs now, and has delivered multiple parts without the appropriate records, making them unfit for installation, according to officials.
"It's not all associated with Lockheed Martin performance," Gregory M. Ulmer, vice president for the F-35 program at Lockheed, told the committee. "I'm fully committed to supporting that continued engagement to resolve those issues going forward."
"I'm also committed to meeting with the Defense Contract Management Agency as well as the [F-35 Joint Program Office] to sit down and reconcile the concerns and adjudicate the cost appropriately," Ulmer said.
Pentagon inspector general Theresa Hull said the Department of Defense spent up to $303 million from 2015 to 2018 on labor needed to get parts ready for installation and will pay $55 million per year until the issue is resolved.
According to Ulmer, Lockheed has spent $30 million to resolve related issues so far and has doubled the percentage of parts that arrive ready to install.
The contractor aims to have nearly all parts come with complete electronic files starting next year.