Commercial Use of Space:

Many Grantees Making Progress, but NASA Oversight Could Be Improved

NSIAD-91-142: Published: May 30, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the extent of private-sector involvement in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) grant program supporting the Centers for the Commercial Development of Space (CCDS); (2) the centers' progress toward and prospects for self-sufficiency; and (3) NASA management of the program.

GAO found that: (1) the number of private industry affiliates increased from 63 reported by 6 centers in 1986 to approximately 199 reported by 16 centers in 1990, and industry financial support increased from $1 million in 1986 to over $4 million in 1990; (2) CCDS will not achieve self-sufficiency in the near future, despite increased industry involvement; (3) to survive without government grants, centers needed to complete projects with the potential for ultimately generating patentable processes and products with commercial applications; (4) NASA implementation of a flexible goal plan delimiting the grant support period could encourage grantees to hasten efforts toward self-sufficiency; (5) the Payload Selection Board review process needed to be reviewed to ensure desired review coverage and that members understand their roles and responsibilities; (6) timely, complete, and accurate fiscal information on centers' activities was not routinely available since NASA did not enforce reporting requirements on the use of federal funds; and (7) NASA lacked timely accounting information on its grantees, due to its lack of a uniform financial management system.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has developed and implemented systems for management and peer reviews of CCDS progress.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should establish, in consultation with each center, a grant support goal with interim targets against which to track progress toward self-sufficiency and to determine the need for, and help measure the results of, corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has revamped the flight review process and has increased the involvement of industry and of field centers personnel with appropriate expertise.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should review the flight request and approval process to ensure that the expertise for such reviews is available in the most efficient manner possible and that those who are asked to assess flight requests fully understand the intended scope of their participation.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA's financial and management review of the centers is covered by the actions taken in response to the first recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should assess and, as necessary, strengthen the internal controls for ensuring that timely, complete, and accurate fiscal information on grantees is available in the NASA accounting system.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

 

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