NASA: Projects Need More Disciplined Oversight and Management to Address Key Challenges Page: 4 of 10
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Today I will be highlighting the results of this work, the actions NASA is
taking to address the concerns raised in our high risk report and better
position its projects to meet their goals, and what we believe is necessary
to make these actions successful. Because we also have responsibility for
examining military space systems, we will also highlight common
challenges with space acquisitions within NASA and the Department of
Defense (DOD). This testimony is based on previously issued GAO work,
which was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government
We assessed 18 projects in NASA's current portfolio. Four were in the
"formulation" phase, a time when system concepts and technologies are
still being explored and 14 were in the "implementation" phase2, where
system design is completed, scientific instruments are integrated, and a
spacecraft is fabricated. When implementation begins, it is expected that
project officials know enough about a project's requirements and what
resources are necessary to meet those requirements that they can reliably
predict the cost and schedule necessary to achieve its goals. Reaching this
point requires investment. In some cases, projects that we reviewed spent
2 to 5 years and up to $100 million or more before being able to formally
set cost and schedule estimates.
Ten of the projects in our assessment for which we received data and that
had entered the implementation phase experienced significant cost and/or
schedule growth from their project baselines.3 Based on our analysis,
development costs for projects in our review increased by an average of
almost 13 percent from their baseline cost estimates-all in just two or
three years-including one that went up more than 50 percent. It should
be noted that a number of these projects had experienced considerably
more cost growth before a baseline was established in response to
statutory reporting requirements. Our analysis also shows that projects in
our review had an average delay of 11 months to their launch dates.
2We only received data for 13 of the 14 projects in implementation. NASA did not provide
cost or schedule data for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is in implementation.
3For purposes of our analysis, significant cost and schedule growth occurs when a project's
cost and/or its schedule growth exceeds the thresholds established for Congressional
reporting per the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of
2005, Pub. L. No. 109-161, 103; 42 U.S.C. 16613 (b), (f) (4).
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United States. Government Accountability Office. NASA: Projects Need More Disciplined Oversight and Management to Address Key Challenges, text, March 5, 2009; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc294572/m1/4/: accessed April 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.