Training Necessary to Address Data Reliability Issues in NASA Agreement Database and to Minimize Potential Competition with Commercial Sector

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Today, GAO issued a correspondence identifying the internal controls that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has in place for reimbursable Space Act agreements and assessing to what extent the agency is adhering to those controls. Specifically, our review focused on NASA's internal controls related to (1) fair reimbursement from agreement partners; (2) interference between agreement partners' work and NASA's use of its facilities; and (3) alignment of agreement partners' work with NASA's mission. In that correspondence, we reported that NASA was generally adhering to its controls ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. May 26, 2011.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Today, GAO issued a correspondence identifying the internal controls that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has in place for reimbursable Space Act agreements and assessing to what extent the agency is adhering to those controls. Specifically, our review focused on NASA's internal controls related to (1) fair reimbursement from agreement partners; (2) interference between agreement partners' work and NASA's use of its facilities; and (3) alignment of agreement partners' work with NASA's mission. In that correspondence, we reported that NASA was generally adhering to its controls for entering into reimbursable Space Act agreements. In our review, however, we also found several instances in which agreements were not completely and accurately recorded in the Space Act Agreement Maker (SAAM) database. In addition, we identified one instance where NASA awarded a reimbursable agreement when similar services may have been available in the private sector. This action appears contrary to the National Space Policy and may have also been contrary to the Commercial Space Competitiveness Act. Federal government standards for internal controls state that control activities should help ensure that all transactions are completely and accurately recorded. NASA's SAAM database, managed by the Mission Support Directorate, is used to assist in writing and storing information relating to Space Act agreements. Although agreements are not required to be written using the system, Space Act agreements and related documentation, except for international agreements, are required to be stored there. According to NASA officials, the agency relies on SAAM-generated quarterly reports to help maintain the integrity of the system's data. For example, NASA officials stated that agreement managers use quarterly reports to identify (1) agreements that were begun, but not submitted (i.e. false starts); (2) agreements that have been submitted, but have not completed the review process; and (3) agreements that have been submitted and completed the review process, but have not been signed. Agreement managers at each NASA center also use monthly reports to track Space Act agreement-related work at the center. These reports are also sent to the Office of International and Interagency Relations at NASA headquarters for awareness and coordination purposes. The Commercial Space Competitiveness Act provides that federal agencies, including NASA, may allow nonfederal entities to use space-related facilities on a reimbursable basis if the Administrator determines that, among other things, equivalent commercial services are not available on "reasonable terms." The 2006 and 2010 National Space Policies state that agencies should refrain from conducting United States government space activities that compete with U.S. commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety. NASA has developed internal controls related to this statutory provision and policy. For example, the agency has issued a Space Act Agreement Guide, an agency-level guidance document, and an interim directive on reimbursable agreements which reiterate the importance of avoiding competition by the federal government with the private sector. In addition, when drafting the agreement in the SAAM database, the responsible agency official (technical point of contact) is required to discuss how NASA goods, services, or facilities to be provided are unique and not available from the U.S. commercial market. Depending on the technical point of contact's response, the agreement could be flagged for additional review by the NASA center's Office of Chief Counsel."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • May 26, 2011

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Training Necessary to Address Data Reliability Issues in NASA Agreement Database and to Minimize Potential Competition with Commercial Sector, text, May 26, 2011; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc299723/: accessed July 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.