Lord: US to Take Over Turkish F-35 Parts; Pentagon Targets IP Theft

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord holds a press briefing to update media on acquisition, reform, and innovation at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., on Aug. 26, 2019. Defense Department photo by Navy PO2 James K. Lee.

American vendors will for now take over production of F-35 fighter jet parts that Turkey was set to build, as the US removes Ankara from the aircraft program, Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord announced Aug. 26.

Lord, in a periodic update on Pentagon acquisition, said the department is also “going on the offensive” against China’s theft of intellectual property. She added that new rules making cybersecurity compliance a determining factor in awarding contracts will go into effect very soon and will affect contracts awarded early next year.

The “900-plus parts” Turkey makes for the F-35 “will be sourced in the US, initially,” Lord said. The US is getting the work because it is “paying all the nonrecurring engineering” costs, and the move is the “most expeditious” way to keep the program on track, she said.

“Competition is our friend, and we’re always looking for more strong, integrated supply chain partners, so there’s always the possibility” the work could migrate overseas,” she added.

Lord said the Pentagon is “well down the pathway” on Turkey’s removal and is still on track to pull the Joint Strike Fighter program out of that country by the end of March 2020.

Turkey’s formal and complete removal from the program should happen “about a year from now, as we work through the production, sustainment and follow-on memorandum of understanding, which is the overarching document for the partnership,” she said.

Lord plans to provide an update on the process next month alongside USAF Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, the new F-35 program executive officer.

The F-35 program is expelling Turkey from its partnership role in the project because of that country’s insistence on buying S-400 Triumf air defense systems from Russia. The US has said Russia would be able to gain valuable insights on tracking and targeting the F-35 if its technicians in Turkey were allowed to be in close proximity to the fighter.

DOD began “unwinding” Turkey’s involvement in the program over the summer. On Aug. 26, Lord said it has not yet been decided what will happen to the four F-35s in the US that Turkey owns, but that they will not be allowed to fly to Turkey.

Previously, Lord said Lockheed Martin would source the parts Turkey will no longer make for the F-35 from across its enterprise, which includes more than a dozen partners and Foreign Military Sales customers. Japan offered to pick up the Turkish industrial role and become an F-35 developmental partner as part of its move to buy more jets, making Japan the second-largest F-35 operator after the US. However, Lord on Monday said the partnership is “closed.”

“There is not a partnership opportunity” for any FMS customers, she said.

On Aug. 23, the Defense Department awarded Lockheed Martin a $2.4 billion contract for F-35 spare parts. The contract adjustment covers initial spares for the Air Force, along with global spare packages for international partners, the Marine Corps, and the Navy, according to a Pentagon announcement.

Lord noted that the US is “keeping the F-35 in Turkey separate and distinct from any other activities in Turkey.” If there are going to be sanctions on Turkey resulting from its doing business with Russia on defense materiel, “State Department has the lead on that,” she said. The US makes heavy use of Incirlik AB in the country, and has many other defense cooperation programs underway with the NATO ally.

Lord said the move to make meeting cybersecurity standards a requirement for all new contracts is also moving ahead. She said the Cyberspace Security Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, is being developed in partnership with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, and industry players.

The new model “combines the various cybersecurity standards into a unified standard,” Lord noted. The CMMC framework “will be made fully available by January 2020, and by June 2020, industry will see CMMC requirements as part of requests for information,” she said. “By fall of 2020, CMMC requirements will be included in requests for proposals.”

Certification will be a “go/no-go decision,” she added.

The Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment office is “issuing new functional policies on mission engineering and intellectual property,” Lord said.

By October, the office expect to formally stand up an intellectual-property cadre within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. That group will develop DOD policy as part of the federal government’s broader effort to address data rights concerns.

She noted that Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and President Donald Trump have also weighed in on the impact of Chinese IP theft on US national security and commerce.

“We need to go on the offense to protect our technology versus merely acting defensively,” she said.

Experience shows that “we have problems with intellectual property when we don’t clearly define what is owned by industry, and what will be owned by the government at the outset of a program, so a lot of this really has to do with good program planning,” Lord added.