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NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the NPOESS Preparatory Project

Status Report From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011

image NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released a report that found NASA has incurred approximately $304 million in additional costs for an important meteorological satellite due to failures by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Air Force to deliver instruments and other critical components to NASA in a timely manner. As a result, the project has experienced a 5-year launch delay and cost increases of 54 percent. Moreover, failure to launch the satellite as scheduled in October 2011 will cost NASA an additional $35 million.

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) was originally conceived as a test mission for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Program to validate new instruments, process algorithms, and test command, control, communications, and ground processing capabilities prior to launching the first of six planned NPOESS satellites. The NPOESS Program is considered essential to meeting civilian and military weather forecasting, storm tracking, and climate monitoring requirements. However, in March 2009 NPP was elevated to a "critical operational mission" because its climate and weather data will be needed by the scientific community for weather prediction models.

Our review found that although NASA met its schedule and technical requirements for producing the NPP spacecraft and the scientific instruments for which it was responsible, the other partner agencies (NOAA and Air Force) were unable to deliver their scientific instruments and critical components to NASA in a timely manner. Because the agreements between NASA and its partner agencies stipulated that the funding, management, and development of specific portions of NPP would be conducted on a "no exchange of funds basis," each partner was responsible for all costs incurred for the mission segments under its area of responsibility. Consequently, NASA - as NPP system integrator - incurred the additional $304 million in costs associated with the 5-year launch delay.

We recommended that when assessing future collaborative efforts with external partners NASA carefully consider the technical capabilities of partner agencies and the risks associated with agreements executed on a "no exchange of funds" basis. We also recommended that if a decision is made to move forward with such an agreement, NASA ensure that its budget includes reserve levels commensurate with the associated risk. NASA agreed with our findings, concurred with our recommendations, and described a series of actions it plans to take in response.

The full report can be found on the OIG's website at http://oig.nasa.gov/ under "Reading Room" or at the following link: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY11/IG-11-018.pdf

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

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