WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Committee on Science and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today released a report by the General Accounting
Office (GAO) on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) efforts to develop a propulsion module for the International Space Station. GAO blamed the failure of
the initial attempt to develop a propulsion module on several NASA management problems.

Upon reading the report Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert remarked, “I may not be a rocket scientist, but these look like management failures, not engineering problems.
Certainly, we will need to ensure that management reforms are in place before we can determine if NASA’s ongoing reassessment of the overall space station program is credible.”

Mr. Hall stated that, “NASA was asked by both Congress and the previous Administration to develop an independent U.S. Space Station propulsion capability as quickly as possible.
NASA’s haste in complying resulted in project planning lapses that led to problems with the development effort. I am disappointed by those problems, but I applaud NASA’s
willingness to make the tough decision to cancel the original effort and restart the project only after addressing the problems that had been uncovered.”

In 1997, NASA developed a contingency plan to address potential Russian shortfalls in the International Space Station (ISS) program. These included the development of a U.S.
propulsion module. NASA accepted a Boeing proposal to develop the propulsion module in 1998, but cost growth and schedule delays led NASA to terminate work on the Boeing
proposal in 2000, at which point NASA began developing a second propulsion module concept. This second concept was canceled in 2001 to address projected cost growth in the overall
ISS program.

The report identified several key mistakes in NASA’s management of the program, including:

  • Failing to complete a project plan that establishes time frames for system acquisition and development and responsibilities for key tasks, resources, and
    performance measures;

  • Failing to fully develop a concept of operations document, which describes the range of scenarios in which the propulsion module would have had to function;
  • Failing to complete an approved risk management plan in a timely manner; and,
  • Failing to develop realistic cost and schedule estimates for the life of the project.

    Senator John McCain, ranking member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee commented, “This GAO report confirms concerns the Commerce Committee
    expressed two years ago regarding NASA’s lack of planning for the Propulsion Module. Clearly, NASA ignored our concerns and mishandled yet another project costing American
    taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    “Once again, NASA has failed to do the fundamental planning needed for a multi-million dollar project,” said Sen. Hollings, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and
    Transportation Committee. “These problems with the propulsion module represent the latest chapter in the sad story associated with NASA’s space station program.”

    The full report is available on the GAO website at: http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?rptno=GAO-01-633