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Press Releases :: March 3, 2009

NASA Needs To Do More to Improve Its Ability to Reuse Its Existing Equipment, GAO Report Finds

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, "PROPERTY MANAGEMENT: NASA’s Goal of Increasing Equipment Reutilization May Fall Short without Further Efforts,” which found that inconsistent descriptions and inaccurate information on equipment condition hamper the ability of a component of NASA’s Integrated Enterprise Management Program, called the Plant, Property, and Equipment (PP&E) Module to produce equipment matches and enhance the agency’s reutilization of its existing equipment rather than having to buy new items. 

The report was requested by House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).  Chairman Gordon asked GAO to conduct a review of NASA’s ability to effectively reutilize agency equipment when appropriate. His request was triggered by the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle, which will require NASA to make disposal and reutilization decisions on over 1.2 million types of equipment. Effective reutilization of some of that equipment and facilities could lessen the costs associated with the Constellation Program.
 
GAO found that the lack of guidance on what should be included in the database descriptions of the equipment and facilities led to widely varying descriptions, which meant that reutilization opportunities could be missed.  For example, the same type of computer server equipment was described as a “disk array,” “disk drive unit,” and “storage array unit.” Further hampering equipment reutilization is the PP&E Module’s lack of detailed equipment availability information.  GAO found that the module does not identify the extent to which each piece of equipment is in use, necessitating a potentially lengthy search process.  For example, an employee searching for an oscilloscope currently might have to contact up to 1,700 other employees to see whether this equipment is available.
 
“NASA clearly is on the right track in trying to develop a tool for users to assess whether they needed to purchase new equipment or could avail themselves of existing resources,” said Gordon. “But if the system contains unreliable and incomplete descriptions and if subsequent lengthy searches still need to be conducted, then users will lack confidence in the system and avoid using it.”
 
GAO recommended a number of actions to improve the effectiveness of NASA’s equipment reutilization efforts.  NASA concurred with four of GAO’s five recommendations. NASA disagreed with GAO’s recommendation that NASA modify the PP&E Module to capture information on the anticipated and actual usage (availability) of equipment assigned to end users.  NASA stated that because equipment listed as “active” is now visible NASA-wide, there is no need to design and implement a separate additional status category in the PP&E Module. 
 
“I am encouraged by NASA’s acknowledgment that improvements can and should be made to enhance the effectiveness of the agency’s equipment reutilization efforts,” said Gordon. “NASA, along with other federal agencies, is operating under a constrained budget and must make the most effective use of the resources it does have. The Committee will continue to monitor NASA’s efforts in this area.”
 
For more information, please see the Committee website.
 
 
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