NASA Maintenance:

Stronger Commitment Needed to Curb Facility Deterioration

NSIAD-91-34: Published: Dec 14, 1990. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the condition of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) facilities for research, development, and flight activities.

GAO found that: (1) NASA facilities, many of which were 30 to 50 years old, were deteriorating due to age, weather, and insufficient or deferred maintenance, but the extent of visible deterioration varied considerably; (2) serious facility problems included rusted and unreliable heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, leaking steam lines, water valves, and pumps, peeling or missing paint, and leaking roofs; (3) insufficient or deferred maintenance has resulted in the need for costly repairs at some facilities; (4) NASA lacked comprehensive guidance to standardize centers' facility maintenance operations; (5) NASA, recognizing the growing problem, made facility maintenance a part of its goal to improve its institutional structure, and worked to determine its total maintenance funding needs; (6) some centers made a stronger commitment to allocating funds to maintenance than others did; (7) NASA indicated that only its research and management appropriation specifically identified maintenance activity; (8) in eight centers, variances in the research and development appropriation allocations accounted for most of the difference in centers' total maintenance funding from 1985 to 1989; (9) centers often attempted to cope with reduced funding by deferring maintenance, resulting in a backlog of maintenance activities; (10) between 1985 and 1989, centers allocated only 0.9 to 1.5 percent of their facilities' replacement value; (11) between 1985 and 1989, 8 centers spent about $125.8 million annually to maintain their facilities; and (12) NASA did not have adequate information to properly administer facility maintenance activities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Budgeting and accounting for facilities maintenance is now incorporated into the NASA Maintenance Management Manual.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should direct the centers to strengthen their procedures for budgeting and accounting for facility maintenance to ensure that maintenance functions are properly controlled.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Attention to facilities maintenance will continue as a specific part of the center directors' functions and responsibilities. Responsibility was addressed in the new NASA management instruction.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should emphasize responsibility for protecting centers' facilities by making facility maintenance a critical element in annual objectives established for directors of centers and heads of headquarters program offices.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA plans to phase in the recommended 2 to 4 percent maintenance funding level as budget constraints permit.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should direct centers to allocate funds to maintenance in accordance with the annual 2 to 4 percent of facility replacement value recommended by the National Research Council, or at a minimum to demonstrate that sufficient funds are allocated to maintain center facilities at least at a steady-state condition.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has developed a comprehensive agency manual and a NASA Management Instruction on facilities maintenance management. Both were approved and issued in late 1991.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should establish standards to guide centers in the development of comprehensive maintenance management systems that include all the information needed to identify maintenance needs and plan, budget, schedule, and report maintenance requirements.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Maintenance Management Manual and NASA Management Instruction address the issue of facility condition assessments.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should direct the centers to conduct annual surveys to determine the centers' respective maintenance and repair requirements.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

 

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