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Lawsuit Claims F-35 Software Problems

July 19, 2009 (by Eric L. Palmer) - A recent lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. court system claims that the software management efforts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have serious problems.

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Lawsuit claim brings questions to U.S. Military's $1 trillion dollar fighter program.

The claims in the lawsuit against the F-35 program are alarming. Foremost, that the software for the jet may be unsafe because standards are not being followed. The F-22 software management program is mentioned also. Note that there is also a filed lawsuit against Lockheed Martin bringing the quality of the manufacturing process of the F-22 into question. This includes claims that the F-22 low observable material may not be up to quality standards. Lockheed Martin has stated that any issues with the F-22 manufacturing process are well managed. Both lawsuits involve fired employees that claim that when they brought up problems, they were forced out. Is this a behavior pattern by Lockheed Martin? As for this recently filed lawsuit referring to the F-35 software management issues, Lockheed Martin and DOD officials have stated repeatedly in the past that the F-35 has no trouble with its software development and that everything is on track.

A summary of the lawsuit claim stating problems with F-35 software development goes something like this. When problems were raised to higher ups stating that that software was not meeting required safety requirements, Lockheed Martin, the “Defendant”, didn’t take proper corrective action. The lawsuit claims that LM only paid “lip service” to the problem and “refused to remedy the past corruption of software in its military contracts”. It also states that, “Thus the scope of the Defendant’s violations as admitted by Defendant, is broader than the F-35 Program.”

The lawsuit claim goes on to state that, “It is in the conduct of these responsibilities that Relator became aware of the initial oversights or disregard of the software process, testing and compliance review which morphed into Defendant’s knowing and intentional misrepresentations and concealments regarding the development of the software, the testing of the software and the compliance of the process with the SEAL 1 and related standards regarding the F-35 Program and others, including the F-22 and other software products on which such standards were ignored. Defendant’s Award to Relator acknowledged the range of violations."

Just as alarming is the following claim from the lawsuit. “Defendant, along with other unnamed persons assigned to the JSF Program:”

“a. Participated in a concealed, active interference with the generation of processes and procedures, (which would have led otherwise to software safety and process compliance) all of which caused the development of unsafe software which needlessly compounded the danger to any pilot who flies the JSF aircraft;”

“b. Intentionally misled and misrepresented to the Lockheed Software Management Team (SMT) and the JSF Program Office (JPO) on multiple occasions the VS, FCS, and FCA software safety and process compliance status to ensure continued funding of the program;”

“ c. Concealed the accurate software safety and process status from the SMT and JPO to avoid interruption of funding of the JSF Program.”

Further quotes from the lawsuit claim go on to state, “It is important to note while reviewing this document that germane to this claim are the contractual requirements for the development of the software, not whether any or all members of the JPO or Lockheed Martin think what is being done is OK.”

“Defendant has policies and procedures in place to request, when appropriate, a waiver or ‘tailoring’ of software safety and process requirements. Such waivers were not requested by anyone associated with this claim. In fact not requesting waivers or tailorings was a substantial component of the coverup process. The Relator suggested, if not professionally insisted, on multiple occasions that the Defendants request waivers or tailorings when refusing to perform software development or testing procedures under the required SEI/CMM and SEAL standards, but was rebuffed—even reprimanded.”

“Had management submitted a request as required, the request, itself, would have operated as an express disclosure of Defendant’s failures, all of which was contrary to the Defendant’s concealment scheme regarding its disregard of SEI/CMM and SEAL standards.”

Also according to the claim, when the fired employee kept bringing up software problems that were not being resolved, “management’s responses grew confrontational”. It also states that the employee, “refused to participate in management’s continuing deception of the U.S. government”. Also claimed is that while LM knew that it was obligated to follow software standards in developing software for the F-35, F-22 and related programs, it refused to do so for “money and scheduling reasons”.

So, what were the “lessons learned” from the F-22 if both programs suffered bad software management? “Lessons learned” from the F-22 is the old standby inferring that everyone from the maker of the F-35 to the F-35 “P.O.” or program office (the DOD side of F-35 program management) knows what they are doing with the F-35 program. Where “quantity has a quality all its own”, the F-35 has over 3 times as much software as an F-22. If this lawsuit has legs, tough times are ahead for the F-35 program as well as one of the worlds largest defense contractors.


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