TOPAZ II Space Nuclear Power Program:

Management, Funding, and Contracting Problems

OSI-98-3R: Published: Dec 1, 1997. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated questionable management practices and possible wrongdoing in the TOPAZ II space nuclear power program, focusing on the program's management, funding, and acquisition practices from 1990 through 1995.

GAO noted that: (1) the TOPAZ II program was unable to achieve either its original goal of technology transfer or the later goal of defense conversion; (2) achievement of the technology transfer goal was inhibited in large part by concerns over the Russians' unwillingness to allow full access to the TOPAZ II technology, while the defense conversion goal was impeded by the lack of a process for monitoring whether the funds expended were actually being used in the defense conversion effort; and (3) GAO identified an Antideficiency Act violation and a procedural violation of the Competition in Contracting Act.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD disagrees with GAO's findings and recommendation in this matter, and declines to implement the recommendation. The DOD interpretation of the contract as research and development (versus acquisition) enables and allows incremental funding and, therefore, negates any argument of an Antideficiency Act violation. Regardless, Congress reduced funding and the program was terminated.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) audits its fiscal year 1993 funds to determine if unobligated funds are available to cover the $5.9 million difference between $9.4 million (the contract's total price) and $3.5 million (the amount obligated and expended from fiscal year 1993 funds). If funds in that amount are not available, the Secretary should ensure that BMDO notifies the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress that it violated the Antideficiency Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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