International Space Station and Shuttle Support Cost Limits

GAO-01-1000R: Published: Aug 31, 2001. Publicly Released: Aug 31, 2001.

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Gregory D. Kutz
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 set cost limits on the international space station and space shuttle programs. Under the act, NASA may not obligate more than $25 billion for space station development or more than $17.7 billion for shuttle launches in connection with space station assembly. The act also stipulates that for the purpose of calculating launch costs not more than $380 million per launch shall be used. Finally, the act requires that NASA, as part of its annual budget request, update Congress on its progress by (1) accounting for and reporting amounts obligated against the limitations to date, (2) identifying the amount of budget authority requested for the future development and completion of the space station, and (3) arranging for GAO to verify the accounting submitted to Congress within 60 days after the submission of the budget request. NASA did not comply with the act's requirement to use obligations as its basis for reporting against the space station limit but instead used budget authority. In addition, NASA was unable to provide detailed transaction-based support for amounts obligated against the space station and shuttle limits for GAO to evaluate and meet the 60-day reporting requirement. Because NASA lacked support for the actual cost of completed space station elements and subsystems, GAO could not determine whether NASA's costs were reasonable. Also, the act does not require NASA to charge all relevant obligations against the space station and shuttle limits. As a result, NASA's accounting for the limits in its fiscal year 2002 budget request did not include $2.5 billion of related obligations through fiscal year 2000.

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