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Highlights

Quality is key to success in U.S. space and missile defense programs, but quality problems exist that have endangered entire missions along with less-visible problems leading to unnecessary repair, scrap, rework, and stoppage; long delays; and millions in cost growth. For space and missile defense acquisitions, GAO was asked to examine quality problems related to parts and manufacturing processes and materials across DOD and NASA. GAO assessed (1) the extent to which parts quality problems affect those agencies' space and missile defense programs; (2) causes of any problems; and (3) initiatives to prevent, detect, and mitigate parts quality problems. To accomplish this, GAO reviewed all 21 systems with mature designs and projected high costs: 5 DOD satellite systems, 4 DOD missile defense systems, and 12 NASA systems. GAO reviewed existing and planned efforts for preventing, detecting, and mitigating parts quality problems. Further, GAO reviewed regulations, directives, instructions, policies, and several studies, and interviewed senior headquarters and contractor officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 1. The Secretary of Defense and the Administrator of NASA should direct appropriate agency executives to include in efforts to implement the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) for increased mission assurance a mechanism for a periodic, governmentwide assessment and reporting of the condition of parts quality problems in major space and missile defense programs. This should include the frequency such problems are appearing in major programs, changes in frequency from previous years, and the effectiveness of corrective measures.
Closed - Implemented
According to NASA, its quality data sharing initiatives, through its committee that coordinates the planning, scheduling, monitoring and management of supplier audit activity, are now operating to share quality audit and part data. In addition, in May 2014, mutual agreements were reached between industry and the national security space community regarding the sharing of quality data.
Department of Defense 2. The Secretary of Defense and the Administrator of NASA should direct appropriate agency executives to include in efforts to implement the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) for increased mission assurance a mechanism for a periodic, governmentwide assessment and reporting of the condition of parts quality problems in major space and missile defense programs. This should include the frequency such problems are appearing in major programs, changes in frequency from previous years, and the effectiveness of corrective measures.
Closed - Not Implemented
This recommendation is closed because four years after issuance of this report, DOD has not taken any action to address it.
Department of Defense 3. The Secretary of Defense and the Administrator of NASA should direct appropriate agency executives to ensure that the reports of the periodic assessments be made available to Congress.
Closed - Not Implemented
This recommendation is closed because four years after issuance of this report, DOD has not taken any action to address it.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 4. The Secretary of Defense and the Administrator of NASA should direct appropriate agency executives to ensure that the reports of the periodic assessments be made available to Congress.
Closed - Implemented
In May 2014, mutual agreements were reached at a meeting held by the council that examines pervasive quality challenges regarding the sharing of quality data between industry and the national security space community. The information is shared through the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program which will be accessible to Congress.

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