NASA Aeronautics:

Impact of Technology Transfer Activities Is Uncertain

NSIAD-93-137: Published: Mar 16, 1993. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 1993.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) efforts to transfer agency-developed technology to the U.S. civil aeronautics industry, focusing on: (1) NASA technology transfer activities; and (2) the impact on international competitiveness.

GAO found that NASA: (1) used a broad definition of technology transfer to include all activities associated with the management of its aeronautics program; (2) used eight primary activities to transfer research results to the aeronautics industry, of which contracts and cooperative agreements constituted a small percentage; (3) believed that contracts and cooperative agreements made the greatest contribution to the industry's competitiveness and enabled it to transfer technology as it was being developed; (4) had 255 research contracts and cooperative agreements with a total value of $105 million in fiscal year 1992; (5) spent only 26 percent of its $555-million aeronautics research and development budget on subsonic research, which was the most beneficial to the industry's near-term competitiveness; (6) requested greater funding for subsonic research, but the Office of Management and Budget cut the budget, believing that such funding would be an inappropriate federal subsidy to the aeronautics industry; (7) did not have a comprehensive system for monitoring and evaluating applications of its transferred technologies or data to objectively determine the results of its transfers; (8) relied on industry feedback to monitor effectiveness, but did not consolidate transfer data in a consistent format for analysis and program management; (9) conducted a customer survey in 1991 that revealed the industry's perception of and concerns about NASA transfer activities, but did not provide data to measure the impact of transfer activities; and (10) issued a December 1992 directive recommending that field centers improve their technology transfer activities, but the directive did not ensure that field centers would uniformly gather transfer data or include plans for analyzing resource allocation among various activities.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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: The Administrator, NASA, should establish minimal standards for measuring aeronautical technology transfer to be followed by all field centers.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The NASA Commercial Technology Management Team has established metrics for tracking aeronautical technology transfer, and these metrics are being periodically reported.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should provide milestones for implementing the recommendations endorsed by his directive.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Milestones for implementing the recommendations endorsed by the Administrator's directive on NASA's technology transfer activities have been established.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should systematically track aeronautics resource expenditures for major technology transfer activities.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has begun to systematically track aeronautics resource expenditures for major technology transfer activities through metrics on technology transfer being periodically reported.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should direct the field centers to identify industry applications (products, services, and systems) that have resulted from NASA-developed technologies.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Field centers are identifying industry applications (products, services, and systems) that have resulted from NASA-developed technologies, and this information is being reported periodically in metrics on technology transfer and in narrative reports to headquarters.

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