NASA Should Provide the Congress Complete Cost Information on the Space Telescope Program

PSAD-80-15: Published: Jan 3, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 3, 1980.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to launch a space telescope aboard the space shuttle in 1983. The program is on schedule and within its budget, and all the telescope's scientific instruments should meet or exceed the established performance requirements. GAO believes that NASA should provide Congress with better financial information on this project.

On a recent status report, NASA listed its development cost estimates for the telescope project but did not show the portion of those costs which consist of project reserves. Also, the report did not show contract cost growth information. NASA believes that publication of detailed data in quasi-public documents would prejudice their contract negotiating position. GAO felt that negotiated contract prices, contract changes, and total project reserves could be reported without prejudicing the Government's interests. Development cost estimates were understated. Items such as civil service salaries, early study efforts, and inflation were not included in the estimates. Also, the status report did not include life-cycle costs for the project. NASA officials opposed including cost elements over which the Project Manager had little or no control. However, GAO felt that since all costs have an impact on the NASA budget, they should be included so that Congress can make informed judgments on the program's future.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The NASA Administrator should make sure that future project status reports on the space telescope include (1) the amount of reserve funds in the initial project cost estimate presented to the Congress, (2) the current amount of reserve funds and an explanation of the variance, (3) the initial negotiated and current contract prices and an explanation of the variance; (4) total project development costs which include civil service salaries and early study efforts, (5) cost estimates in budget-year dollars with projection of total development costs at different inflation rates, and (6) an estimate of life-cycle costs with projections of these costs at different inflation rates.

    Agency Affected:


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