NASA Budget:

Carryover Balances for Selected Programs

NSIAD-96-206: Published: Jul 16, 1996. Publicly Released: Aug 6, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the extent of carryover budget balances for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) program and other NASA programs.

GAO found that: (1) carryover balances in NASA's Human Space Flight and Science, Aeronautics, and Technology programs totalled $3.6 billion by the end of fiscal year (FY) 1995; (2) individual programs carried over varying amounts, ranging from the equivalent of 1 month to 16 months of FY 1995 new budget authority; (3) MTPE carried $695 million, or more than 6 months, of budget authority into FY 1996; (4) Under NASA's current budget and cost plans, these balances will be reduced in FY 1996 and 1997, but the actual reductions depend on the extent NASA's projected costs match the actual costs incurred and the amount of new budget authority received for FY 1997; (5) NASA officials are concerned that the current amounts are too high and are taking actions to reduce these balances; (6) a recent NASA study of carryover balances determined that the equivalent of 3 months of budget authority should be carried into the next fiscal year and recommended actions to bring NASA programs within that threshold, and also noted that the threshold needs to be studied over time to determine if it is appropriate; (7) applying the initial 3-month threshold to estimated carryover balances at the end of FY 1996 shows that 7 of the 11 Human Space Flight and Science, Aeronautics, and Technology programs have a total carryover of $1.1 billion beyond the threshold; (8) NASA's Comptroller intends to carefully scrutinize carryover amounts as part of the FY 1998 budget development process, and formally requested program managers to justify carryover balances that exceed amounts necessary to fund program costs for 8 weeks of the next fiscal year; (9) the 8 weeks was not a threshold for the appropriate level of carryover, but rather a criterion for identifying balances for review; (10) at the end of FY 1996, nine programs would need to justify $1.5 billion beyond the Comptroller's 8-week criterion; and (11) the three programs with the largest estimated balances requiring justification are Space Science with $558 million, MTPE with $435 million, and Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications with $257 million.

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