Status Report

Business Modernization: Improvements Needed in Management of NASA’s Integrated Financial Management Program, GAO-03-507

By SpaceRef Editor
June 1, 2003
Filed under , ,

Full report (PDF)

What GAO Found

The core financial module, if implemented as planned, may provide some
improvement to NASA’s accounting system environment. However, NASA is
not following key best practices for acquiring and implementing IFMP. In
acquiring IFMP components, NASA is facing risks in understanding
dependencies among commercial components. NASA has not analyzed the
interdependencies among selected and proposed IFMP components, and it
does not have a methodology for doing so. For programs like IFMP, which
involve building a system from commercial components, it is essential to
understand the characteristics and credentials of each component to select
ones that are compatible and can be integrated without having to build and
maintain expensive interfaces. By acquiring IFMP components without first
understanding system component relationships, NASA has increased its
risks of implementing a system that will not optimize mission performance
and will cost more and take longer to implement than necessary.

In implementing the core financial module, NASA is facing risks in two
additional areas:

  • User needs. NASA did not consider the information needs of key
    system users and deferred addressing the requirements of program
    managers, cost estimators, and the Congress. Although this module
    should eliminate NASA’s separate, incompatible accounting systems,
    little has been done to reengineer acquisition management processes.
    Program managers and cost estimators indicated that they will continue
    to rely on other means to capture the data needed to manage programs
    such as the International Space Station.
  • Requirements management. NASA is relying on a requirements
    management process that does not require documentation of detailed
    system requirements prior to system implementation and testing. Over
    80 percent of the requirements GAO reviewed lacked specificity, and
    several could not be traced among various documents. These defects
    also significantly impaired the testing phase of the system
    implementation effort. Further, NASA has not implemented metrics to
    help gauge the effectiveness of its requirements management process.
    NASA’s approach will likely result in increasing amounts of time spent
    on costly rework and reduced progress.
  • Unless these issues are successfully addressed, NASA is at increased risk of
    having IFMP become its third unsuccessful attempt to transform its financial
    management and business operations.

    Why GAO Did This Study

    The National Aeronautics and
    Space Administration’s (NASA)
    nonintegrated financial
    management systems have
    weakened its ability to oversee its
    contractors, and its contract
    management has been on GAO’s
    high-risk list since 1990. In April
    2000, NASA began its Integrated
    Financial Management Program
    (IFMP), its third attempt in recent
    years at modernizing financial
    management processes and
    systems. GAO was asked to review
    whether NASA was following key
    best practices in acquiring IFMP
    components and implementing one
    of the first components—the core
    financial module.

    What GAO Recommends

    GAO is recommending that NASA
    develop and implement (1) a shortterm
    plan to identify and mitigate
    the risks currently associated with
    relying on already deployed IFMP
    commercial components and (2) a
    longer term strategy for acquiring
    additional IFMP components that
    includes implementing a
    methodology for commercial
    system component dependency
    analysis. NASA agreed with GAO’s
    recommendation related to a shortterm
    plan but disagreed with many
    of the findings related to user
    needs and requirements
    management. NASA also agreed
    with the importance of having an
    approach for acquiring additional
    IFMP components, but stated that
    it already has an effective strategy
    in place. GAO reaffirms its

    SpaceRef staff editor.