Over the last few years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has increasingly relied on its authority under the Space Act of 1958 to enter into agreements, commonly referred to as Space Act agreements (SAA), to stimulate private sector development of systems capable of transporting cargo and crew to the International Space Station and to assist partner firms in developing their technologies. Reimbursable Space Act agreements involve the use of NASA's facilities, personnel, or equipment primarily for the benefit of the agreement partner. NASA undertakes reimbursable work when it has unique goods, services, or facilities which can be made available to another party in a manner that does not interfere with NASA mission requirements and is consistent with the agency's mission. According to NASA guidance, the agency generally collects full reimbursement for costs associated with a reimbursable agreement. These types of agreements are known as fully reimbursable SAAs. However, NASA can accept less than full reimbursement in certain instances, such as when the reimbursement is fair and reasonable when compared to the benefits NASA receives from the work. When NASA waives costs under a reimbursable SAA, NASA guidance refers to this as a partially reimbursable SAA. At the time of our review, NASA had established internal controls to help ensure it is obtaining fair reimbursement under these agreements and partners' activities do not interfere and are in alignment with the agency's mission. These controls included developing a cost estimate, obtaining required approvals from financial and legal officials, documenting the rationale for waiving costs, inserting a non-interference clause in all agreements, and describing in the purpose section of each fully reimbursable agreement how the work to be performed aligns with NASA's mission. In response to your request, we reviewed reimbursable agreements to identify the internal controls NASA has in place and assess the extent to which the agency is adhering to its controls related to 1) fair reimbursement from agreement partners and 2) ensuring partner use is consistent with NASA's mission and reimbursable Space Act agreements do not interfere with NASA's use of its facilities. We provided your offices a draft copy of the enclosed briefing on April 26, 2011.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|National Aeronautics and Space Administration||1. NASA should refine its policy to clearly define the type of information required to support the rationale or justification for waived costs. This type of information may include documenting that there is a clear and demonstrated benefit to NASA and quantifying the benefit to the extent practicable.|