NASA Report May Overstate the Economic Benefits of Research and Development Spending

PAD-78-18: Published: Oct 18, 1977. Publicly Released: Oct 18, 1977.


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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contracted with Chase Econometrics Associates, Inc., to evaluate how research and development (R&D) spending affects the U.S. economy.

The Chase report "The Economic Impact of NASA R&D Spending" concluded that this spending produced many benefits between 1960 and 1974, although it did not try to evaluate how effectively NASA carried out its primary objectives, such as space exploration and satellite communication. Although the study is useful as exploratory research, other types of studies are necessary to provide a complete evaluation of NASA research and development. The most significant conclusion of the Chase study was that ". . . a $1 billion sustained increase in NASA R&D spending will raise real GNP $23 billion by 1984 . . . ." Of this estimated increase, $21 billion would result from improved technology and productivity and the rest would result from increased Government spending which would stimulate spending in different parts of the economy. The Chase study did not prove convincingly that the benefits of R&D spending are as large as stated.

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

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: The Administrator of NASA should ensure that future evaluation studies look at specific innovations, their effect on specific industries, and the process by which NASA expenditures for research and development improve productivity in the economy. Such studies would give Congress a more accurate picture of what taxpayers are getting for their money. The Congress should subject technical studies submitted in support of agency budgets and as evidence for or against proposed legislation to independent examination and appraisal.

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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