Report | Sept. 23, 2013

CH-53K Program Management Is Satisfactory, but Risks Remain (Redacted)



Our overall objective was to evaluate Naval Air Systems Command acquisition management of the CH-53K program. This report is the second in a series of audits on the Marine Corps CH-53K helicopter program. For this audit we determined whether Naval Air Systems Command was effectively managing and developing the CH-53K helicopter program for low-rate initial production. The estimated total life-cycle cost of the CH-53K program is $106.7 billion, and the program is expected to begin full-rate production in September 2019.


CH-53K program officials generally managed and developed the CH-53K program in accordance with defense acquisition guidelines while preparing for the low-rate initial production decision. However, the program has experienced cost growth and schedule delays since 2009. The CH-53K Program Office:

  • made appropriate programmatic decisions during technical reviews and test planning based on the maturity of the system;
  • appropriately reported cost growth and schedule delays to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and Congress through reports and summaries in accordance with DoD acquisition guidelines; and
  • received approval for an updated Acquisition Program Baseline on April 24, 2013, to address cost growth and schedule delays.

However, the CH-53K Program Office has not begun testing to demonstrate acceptable performance of the ground and flight test vehicles because of contractor manufacturing delays and failures during component testing. As a result of delayed testing, the program is at increased risk of not being ready for the February 2016 milestone for low-rate initial production and is at risk of exceeding cost and schedule goals in the updated Acquisition Program Baseline. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics representatives are aware of the manufacturing, testing, and performance risks facing the program and the CH-53K Program Office’s plan to mitigate those risks.

This report is a result of Project No. D2013-D000CD-0095.000.