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General Accounting Office Blasts NASA.


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Auditors with the US Government delivered a negative report this week about NASA's ability to properly estimate large projects, and manage them effectively. As part of this study, the General Accounting Office reviewed 27 programs, 10 of them in-depth, and came to the conclusion that "NASA lacks a clear understanding of how much programs will cost and how long they will take to achieve their objectives". In an appendix of the report, however, NASA acknowledged the flaws and detailed the steps it was taking to correct the situation.

Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Minority Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) today released a General Accounting Office (GAO) study they had requested titled, "NASA: Lack of Disciplined Cost-Estimating Processes Hinders Effective Program Management."

GAO concluded that "NASA lacks a clear understanding of how much programs will cost and how long they will take to achieve their objectives....NASA’s basic cost-estimating processes...lack the discipline needed to ensure that program estimates are reasonable." As part of the study, GAO reviewed 27 programs, 10 of them in-depth.

In a response included in the appendix to the GAO report, NASA "concur[red]" with the recommendations in the report and listed steps the agency has underway to implement them. The recommendations include having NASA develop "an integrated plan for improving cost estimating" and establishing "a standard framework for developing life-cycle cost estimates." The GAO report elaborates on those recommendations in some detail.

Boehlert said, "This is something that started out as a 'bad news’ story that appears to be heading for a happy ending. The report lays out in detail the problems that have repeatedly plagued NASA’s cost estimating over many years. Congress needs to be aware of these problems when evaluating NASA’s proposals. But NASA does have concrete steps underway to improve the situation, for which Administrator O’Keefe should be congratulated. GAO has told us that those steps will go a long way toward solving the problem. And there’s some indication that those steps are beginning to bear fruit. The newest program that GAO examined, the cockpit avionics upgrade, also was the one with the best performance, although GAO still had some concerns with it. So there’s cause for optimism. Our Committee’s job will be to ensure that NASA continues to implement the steps it has outlined fully, carefully and as speedily as possible."

"The GAO report’s findings, when coupled with NASA’s failure to pass an independent financial audit for the past three years running, suggest that NASA needs to get its financial house in order," Gordon said.




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