Information Technology:

Architecture Needed to Guide NASA's Financial Management Modernization

GAO-04-43: Published: Nov 21, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 2003.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in the process of modernizing its financial management operations and supporting information technology systems. This modernization, known as the Integrated Financial Management Program (IFMP), is intended to provide NASA with an agencywide, integrated approach to performing critical business functions, such as contract management--an area that GAO first designated as high risk in 1990 and continues to do so today. GAO was requested to review various aspects of IFMP, and this report is one in a series on the program. The objective of this review was to determine whether NASA has been acquiring and implementing IFMP in the context of an enterprise architecture.

To date, NASA has acquired and implemented significant components of IFMP without an enterprise architecture to guide and constrain the program. An enterprise architecture is an organizational blueprint that defines--in both business and technology terms--how an organization operates today and how it intends to operate in the future; it also provides a plan for transitioning to this future state. Using an enterprise architecture to guide and constrain systems modernization programs is a federal requirement and a recognized best practice of successful public and private organizations. In addition, GAO's research has shown that attempting major modernization programs such as IFMP without a well-defined enterprise architecture risks, among other things, building systems that are duplicative, are not interoperable, and do not effectively and efficiently support mission operations and performance. During the course of GAO's work, NASA recognized the need for an enterprise architecture and has taken steps to develop one. For example, it has established an architecture program office, designated a chief architect, and selected an architecture framework to use. In addition, after GAO completed its audit work, NASA released an initial version of an enterprise architecture, which the chief technology officer stated was not yet complete and would be improved upon in future versions. However, the agency has yet to establish other key architecture management capabilities, such as designating an accountable corporate entity to lead the architecture effort, having an approved policy for developing and maintaining the architecture, and implementing an independent verification and validation function to provide needed assurance that architecture products and architecture management processes are effective. Moreover, the architecture products used to date to manage NASA's investment in IFMP did not provide sufficient context (depth and scope of agencywide operational and technical requirements) to effectively guide and constrain the program. The chief technology officer agreed that NASA needs an effective enterprise architecture program and stated that efforts are under way to establish one. GAO's experience in reviewing other agencies has shown that not having an effective enterprise architecture program can be attributed to, among other things, an absence of senior management understanding and support, as well as cultural resistance. NASA's current approach to acquiring and implementing IFMP outside the context of an architecture unnecessarily increases the risk that the program's system components will not effectively and efficiently support agencywide operations. The result will be costly system rework. It is critical for NASA to discontinue this approach and adopt the best practice of managing its IFMP system investments within the context of a well-defined enterprise architecture.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In implementing the architecture, the board and CIO should (1) establish a written and approved policy for IT investment compliance with the enterprise architecture, (2) ensure that the enterprise architecture is an integral component of IT investment management processes, (3) ensure that IT investments comply with the enterprise architecture, (4) obtain Administrator approval of each enterprise architecture version, (5) measure and report enterprise architecture return on investment, and (6) measure and report on enterprise architecture compliance.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has (1) established a written and approved policy (Policy Directive 2830 dated December 16, 2005) for IT investment compliance with the EA; (2) issued procedures governing EA use in the investment management process (NASA Procedural Requirements 2830.1 dated February 2006); (3) ensured that IT investments comply with the EA, as demonstrated by documentation on completed EA investment reviews and certifications for such projects as IEMP Contract Management Module and SAP Version Upgrade; (4) obtained Administrator approval of each EA version; (5) measured and reported EA return on investment through monthly reporting of EA costs and benefits to NASA's Strategic Management Council, which is the agency's highest governance council; and (6) has measured and reported project's compliance with the EA to the Chief Enterprise Architect and Chief Information Office.

    Recommendation: In completing the architecture, we recommend that the board and CIO (1) establish a written and approved policy for architecture maintenance; (2) ensure that enterprise architecture products and management processes undergo independent verification and validation; (3) ensure that architecture products describe the enterprise's business and the data,application, and technology that supports it;(4) ensure that the CIO approves the enterprise architecture; (5) ensure that the steering committee and/or the investment review board has approved the current version of the enterprise architecture; and (6) measure and report on the quality of enterprise architecture products.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has (1) issued Policy Directive 2830 on December 16, 2005, for architecture maintenance; (2) provided for independent verification and validation of EA products; (3) ensured that EA products (dated February 2007) describe the enterprise's business functions (e.g., Scientific and Technological Research and Innovation) and the supporting applications and technologies (e.g., Johnson Space Center Space Shuttle Program Flight Software); (4) had its CIO approve EA products, such as the transition and sequencing plan dated February 27, 2007; 5) had its EA steering committee approve the latest EA updates on February 28, 2008; and 6) had EA product quality measured and reported to both OMB and GAO.

    Recommendation: To further assist NASA, the Administrator should direct the board, in collaboration with the CIO, to ensure that the best practices involved in stages 3 through 5 of our enterprise architecture management maturity framework are implemented. More specifically, the board and the CIO should (1) establish a written and approved policy for architecture development, (2) place enterprise architecture products under configuration management, and (3) ensure that progress against architecture plans is measured and reported.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On September 12, 2006, we reported on the state of NASA's enterprise architecture (EA) program as part of our review of the EA programs of 27 major federal departments and agencies (GAO-06-831). Specifically, we reported that the agency had 1) established a written and approved policy for architecture development, NASA Policy Directive 2830, on December 16, 2005; 2) placed enterprise architecture products under configuration management; and 3) ensured that progress against architecture plans and quality standards is measured and reported, as evidenced by approved architecture management plans and progress reports.

    Recommendation: The Administrator should direct the IFMP Program Executive Officer to appropriately limit acquisition and implementation activities until the agency ensures that the program's plans are aligned with the initial and subsequent versions of the enterprise architecture. In addition, the Administrator should direct the architecture board, in collaboration with the CIO, to immediately map already implemented IFMP components to the agency's enterprise architecture and report to the Program Executive Officer any instances of misalignment, the associated risks, and proposed corrective actions. Moreover, the Administrator should direct the Program Executive Officer to develop corrective action plans, as appropriate, that include specific milestones, cost estimates, and detailed actions to be taken to align the program with the enterprise architecture.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has conducted architecture alignment reviews of Integrated Enterprise Management Program (IEMP) projects to ensure, among other things, that each can be mapped to the NASA EA. For example, NASA documentation, including EA/project review briefings and certifications for two IEMP projects--Contract Management Module and SAP Version Upgrade, show that this has been done on both projects. In performing these reviews and certifications, it has used documented alignment criteria and guidance. According to NASA, the reviews of the Integrated IEMP modules have not indicated any misalignment, thus it has not had to limit acquisition and implementation activities or had to develop corrective action plans.

    Recommendation: In carrying out its responsibility, the Administrator should direct the architecture board, in collaboration with the CIO, to ensure that the architecture content requirements identified in this report are satisfied by first determining the extent to which NASA's initial release of an enterprise architecture satisfies these content requirements and then developing and approving a plan for incorporating any content that is missing.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA used Office of Management and Budget EA guidance and assessment results, an independent verification and validation agent's EA assessment results, and the results of GAO's review of its initial EA release to plan its architecture improvements. In this regard, it developed an integrated EA master schedule (dated August 14, 2008) that identifies actions NASA will take to add missing architecture content. For example, the master schedule identifies an activity to further develop an enterprise service catalog that will include the technical standards to be implemented for each enterprise service. In addition, available NASA EA artifacts show that the agency has already addressed several of the missing content requirements.

    Recommendation: To ensure that NASA has the necessary agencywide context within which to make informed IFMP and other systems modernization decisions, the NASA Administrator should demonstrate an institutional commitment to developing and using an enterprise architecture by establishing a NASA enterprise architecture policy and designating a NASA architecture board, or comparable body, that is made up of agency executives who are responsible and accountable for developing and maintaining the architecture.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 16, 2005, NASA established Policy Directive 2830 governing development and use of its enterprise architecture (EA). In addition, the agency established the Strategy and Investment Board (SIB) on September 14, 2007, and approved a charter for it on March 11, 2008. The SIB membership includes agency executives (e.g., NASA Associate and Deputy Administrators) who are responsible for developing, maintaining, and using the architecture. For example, the SIB is responsible for approving changes to the EA and ensuring alignment of NASA IT investments with the agency EA.

    Recommendation: In completing the architecture, the board and CIO should (1) ensure that enterprise architecture products describe the "As Is" environment, the "To Be" environment, and a sequencing plan; (2) ensure that business, performance, data, application, and technology descriptions address security.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has taken, and plans to take additional actions, that largely satisfy this recommendation. In particular, the latest EA products describe NASA's current and future environments and a transition strategy for the agency's mission support environment and one of the agency's core mission areas (i.e., Space Operations). In addition, these latest EA products describe NASA security policy and procedures, organizations accountable for security, enterprise security services, security products, security initiatives and schedules, and program-level security reviews. Going forward, NASA plans call for describing the "As Is" architectures, the "To Be" architectures, and transition plans for its other core mission areas (e.g., Aeronautics Research).

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