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NASA OIG: NASA's 2014 Top Management and Performance Challenges

Press Release From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Friday, November 14, 2014

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NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) annual report discussing the most serious management and performance challenges facing NASA.  The underlying theme of this year's report is sustainability.  Specifically, the OIG noted that NASA's ability to sustain its ambitious exploration, science, and aeronautics programs will be driven in large measure by whether the Agency is able to adequately fund such high-profile initiatives as its commercial cargo and crew programs, Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020 Rover, and associated personnel and infrastructure.

Over the past year, the OIG issued reports raising concerns on a variety of issues that could affect the sustainability of NASA projects and missions.  For example, because of budget reductions and the loss of expected revenue, NASA's Space Network - part of the Agency's Space Communications and Navigation Program that provides connectivity with NASA spacecraft operating in low Earth orbit - will not have sufficient funding beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2016 to meet all planned service commitments. In addition, while NASA hopes to maintain the International Space Station's budget at between $3 and $4 billion annually through 2024, we believe this estimate overly optimistic and the cost to NASA will likely be higher due in part to increased astronaut transportation costs. In another example, since 2006 NASA has spent or budgeted an average of $62 million annually to address an estimated $1.1 billion in unfunded environmental liabilities.  However, soil and groundwater cleanup costs for one project alone - the Santa Susana Field Laboratory outside Los Angeles, California - could easily consume NASA's entire environmental restoration budget.

In what has become something of an unfortunate pattern, NASA began the new fiscal year without a full-year appropriation, making long-range planning more difficult.  In addition, the Agency faces significant budgetary challenges given that its "top-line" funding level is likely to remain relatively flat for at least the next several years.  Accordingly, the OIG believes the principal challenge facing NASA leaders in FY 2015 will be to effectively manage the Agency's varied programs against the backdrop of an uncertain budget environment.  In addition to this overarching challenge, NASA managers must address a myriad of individual Agency-, project-, and facility-related challenges.  In the OIG's view, the top seven challenges facing the Agency are:

*          Managing NASA's Human Space Exploration Programs: the International Space Station, Commercial Crew Transportation, and the Space Launch System

*          Managing NASA's Science Portfolio

*          Ensuring the Continued Efficacy of the Space Communications Networks

*          Overhauling NASA's Information Technology Governance

*          Ensuring the Security of NASA's Information Technology Systems

*          Managing NASA's Infrastructure and Facilities

*          Ensuring the Integrity of the Contracting and Grants Process and Proper Use of Space Act Agreements

To read a detailed description of these challenges, please visit our website at: http://oig.nasa.gov/NASA2014ManagementChallenges.pdf

Please contact Renee Juhans at (202) 358-1220 if you have questions.

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