NASA's System for Tracking Foreign Contracts and Subcontracts

GAO-07-142R: Published: Nov 9, 2006. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 2006.

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Cristina T. Chaplain
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Office of Public Affairs
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the nation's leading research and development organization in the fields of space and aeronautics. Each year, NASA spends almost 90 percent of its annual budget on the acquisition of supplies and services in order to fulfill the agency's mission to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. NASA purchases these supplies and services from both U.S. and foreign contractors. Although most contracts were awarded to U.S. contractors, NASA, in fiscal year 2004, also awarded contracts to vendors in 23 countries. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005 requires the NASA Administrator to annually report to Congress on NASA's contracts and subcontracts performed overseas and purchases from foreign entities. The report should also indicate contracts and subcontracts and their dollar values for goods and services that are only available from foreign sources as well as items and their dollar values for which the Buy American Act was waived pursuant to obligations of the United States under international agreements. According to the reporting requirement, the first annual report is due no later than January 2007. Based on Congressional interest in ensuring that NASA will have the data to meet the new reporting requirements, we examined how NASA will track contracts and subcontracts performed overseas, foreign purchases, and the use of Buy American Act exceptions. We also determined whether NASA collects and analyzes data to assess its supplier base.

NASA will not fully meet congressional reporting requirements on fiscal year 2006 foreign purchases by January 2007 because it is not collecting all the data needed to do so. Currently, NASA can track its contracts performed overseas and purchases of foreign goods and services through information contained in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG)--an upgrade to the governmentwide information system on federal procurement contracts. As NASA relies on FPDS-NG, which currently does not track information on subcontracts or Buy American Act exceptions used in foreign purchases, NASA officials stated that they cannot report on this information at this time. A recent change made to the FPDS-NG will allow NASA to start collecting Buy American Act data for its fiscal year 2007 purchases, and NASA plans to work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to collect subcontract information under a pilot program to be implemented by July 2007. However, NASA will not have this information available to meet the January 2007 reporting date. In addition, although NASA has collected supplier base data for its Space Shuttle program, it does not collect or analyze agencywide data on its suppliers.

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