(Washington, DC)  After careful study, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency’s (NASA) policies governing the development of space flight systems have been found to be lacking some key criteria.  A report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that additional ‘decision reviews’ are needed to ensure that NASA’s projects meet their performance, cost, and schedule goals. 

The GAO study, requested in June 2005 by House Science Committee Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark Udall (D-CO), is part of Science Democrats’ ongoing oversight agenda for NASA.

“As NASA embarks on an initiative to return American astronauts to the Moon – an endeavor estimated to cost more than $100 billion over the next 13 years – we need to have confidence that the agency will be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” stated Rep. Gordon.  “In their report out today, the GAO offers some common-sense recommendations aimed at reducing the chances that NASA’s projects will suffer cost growth and schedule delays.  I hope NASA will take the GAO’s guidance seriously.”

GAO’s recommendations include requiring that NASA projects demonstrate:

  • that key technologies have reached a high maturity level before approving the projects for transition from the formulation to the implementation phase,
  • that the design is stable before approving the projects for transition from the design phase to the fabrication, assembly, and test phase; and
  • that the design can be manufactured within cost and schedule and meet quality targets prior to any decision to enter into production

  In addition, the GAO recommends that NASA include additional decision reviews that are tied to the key phases of a project “to increase the likelihood that cost, schedule, and performance requirements of the project will be met.”

“The GAO report cautions that ‘several of NASA’s major acquisitions have been marked by cost, schedule, and performance problems,'” added Rep. Udall.  “‘Yet, the challenges NASA faces in the future are likely to far exceed those it has faced in the past.’ I want NASA to succeed on all of its important missions in science, aeronautics, and human space flight.” 

“Good project management is going to be critical to NASA’s mission success, and I welcome GAO’s constructive recommendations to the agency.  Over the coming year, we plan to follow NASA’s progress in implementing them,” concluded Rep. Gordon.

The GAO report is entitled “NASA:  Implementing a Knowledge-Based Acquisition Framework Could Lead to Better Investment Decisions and Project Outcomes.” [GAO-06-218].  It will be made available on the GAO website later today.