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OIG: NASA's Use of Research Announcement Awards for Aeronautics Research

Status Report From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Monday, April 30, 2012

image NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released a report that assesses whether research funded by NASA Research Announcement awards advanced the Agency's aeronautics research goals and whether award costs were allowable and properly supported.

NASA's three Mission Directorates - Science, Human Exploration and Operations, and Aeronautics Research - support their research, development, and education efforts by awarding contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements through solicitations for research proposals known as NASA Research Announcements (NRA). From 2006 to 2010, NASA spent approximately $1.3 billion on NRA awards across all its Mission Directorates. During the same period, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) funded 447 NRA awards valued at $434.7 million to advance the Directorate's research goals, which include increasing the capacity, efficiency, and flexibility of our national airspace and addressing noise, emissions, performance, and safety challenges.

This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA's aeronautics-related NRA awards, including awards funded by the Recovery Act, advanced the Agency's aeronautics research goals. Specifically, the awards aligned with one or more goals set forth in ARMD project plans and, according to NASA technical experts, expanded the knowledge needed to advance those goals.

However, we also found that because procurement officials did not perform adequate due diligence in reviewing costs proposed by awardees, 18 of the 43 awards we reviewed (42 percent) contained approximately $2.4 million in questioned costs, including $22,114 in unallowable and $2.4 million in unsupported costs (none of the 18 awards with questioned costs were funded by the Recovery Act).

Based on our sample results, we estimate that ARMD's 447 NRA awards during this 5-year period contained $25.2 million in unallowable or unsupported costs. Moreover, we project that by addressing the deficiencies we identified NASA could avoid awarding approximately $3.6 million annually in unallowable and/or unsupported costs in ARMD NRA awards

The OIG recommended that NASA provide additional training for procurement personnel and revise its Guidebook for NRA Proposers. NASA proposed corrective actions that meet the intent of our recommendations.

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/FY12/IG-12-011.pdf Please contact Renee Juhans at (202) 358-1220 if you have questions.

"We found that NASA's aeronautics-related NRA awards, including awards funded by the Recovery Act, advanced the aeronautics research goals established by NASA. Specifically, the awards aligned with one or more goals set forth in ARMD project plans and, according to NASA technical experts, expanded the knowledge needed to advance those goals. However, we found that 18 of the 43 awards we reviewed (42 percent) contained approximately $2.4 million in questioned costs: $22,114 in unallowable fees and $2,405,635 in unsupported costs. Based on our sample results, we estimate that ARMD's 447 NRA awards during this 5-year period contained $25.2 million in unallowable or unsupported costs. Moreover, we project that by addressing the deficiencies we identified NASA could avoid awarding approximately $3.6 million in unallowable and/or unsupported costs annually in ARMD NRA awards."

Full report

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