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Press Releases :: March 5, 2009

Subcommittee Investigates Causes, Solutions for Recurring Problems of Cost and Schedule Growth at NASA

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing to examine the status of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) efforts to improve the cost management of its acquisitions and programs.

Subcommittee Members heard testimony on:
• The causes of cost increases and schedule delays at NASA;
• NASA’s progress in addressing recurring cost and schedule-growth;
• The results of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recent assessments of some of NASA’s large-sale projects; and
• The designation of NASA acquisition management as a “high-risk” area.

“Our job as Members of Congress is to ensure that NASA has the resources and tools it needs to carry out the nation’s vision for the agency, including the many tasks that we have given the agency. With that, however, goes the responsibility of ensuring that NASA is being a good steward of the resources provided to it by our constituents,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). “I take that responsibility seriously.”

According to GAO’s review of 18 of NASA’s large-scale projects, the agency had difficulty meeting cost, schedule, and performance objectives for a majority of those projects. As GAO had indicated, NASA’s need to effectively manage its programs will gain even more importance as the agency seeks to manage its wide-ranging portfolio in an increasingly constrained fiscal environment.

When programs cost more than expected and take longer to build than planned, NASA must either seek additional funds or make difficult trade-offs among its portfolio, such as shortening missions or removing instruments, causing the agency to accomplish less.

“It is clear that good cost and schedule management will be critical to the success of NASA’s planned robotic and human space flight activities. However, it is also clear that NASA, Department of Defense (DOD), and the other agencies of the federal government involved in space activities have many dedicated and competent scientists and engineers working long hours to try to deliver successful projects,” said Giffords. “That tells me that dealing with these cost and schedule issues is hard, and that there’s no simple fix or the situation would have been resolved long ago. We need to find out why preventing cost and schedule growth in our space projects is so hard, and more importantly, what we can do to put us on a better path for the future.”

In his testimony before the Subcommittee, NASA’s Acting Administrator, Christopher Scolese, acknowledged the cost growth problems identified by the GAO and described the measures the agency has been taking over the past two years to improve future performance. He indicated that the impact of those acquisition improvements initiatives should be visible within the next one to two years.

“It may not be possible to achieve perfection, but we certainly need to do our best to ensure that NASA is making the best use of the funds that it is given. We owe that to the American taxpayers, as well as to those who are working so hard to advance the nation’s agenda in space and aeronautics research,” added Giffords.

For more information or to read the GAO reports, please visit the Committee’s website.

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