GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed. GAO’s priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. Below you can search only priority recommendations, or search all recommendations.

Our recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Moreover, when implemented, some of our priority recommendations can save large amounts of money, help Congress make decisions on major issues, and substantially improve or transform major government programs or agencies, among other benefits.

As of April 18, 2018, there are 5,184 open recommendations, of which 465 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.

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Subject Term: "Space exploration"

4 publications with a total of 5 priority recommendations
Director: Cristina Chaplain
Phone: (202) 512-4841

1 open priority recommendation
Recommendation: Exploration Systems Development should no longer dual-hat individuals with both programmatic and technical authority responsibilities. Specifically, the technical authority structure within Exploration Systems Development should be restructured to ensure that technical authorities for the Offices of the Chief Engineer and Safety and Mission Assurance are not fettered with programmatic responsibilities that create an environment of competing interests that may impair their independence. (Recommendation 1)

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate: Exploration Systems Development Division
Status: Open
Priority recommendation

Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation. NASA stated that it created the technical authority governance structure after the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report and that the dual-hat technical authority structure has been understood and successfully implemented within Exploration Systems Development. NASA recognized, however, that as the program moves from the design and development phase into the integration and test phase, it anticipates that the Exploration Systems Development environment will encounter more technical issues that will, by necessity, need to be quickly evaluated and resolved. NASA has taken steps to separate the engineering technical authority position from the programmatic position. To fully implement this recommendation, NASA needs to separate the technical authority position from the programmatic position for safety within the Exploration Systems Development organization.
Director: Chaplain, Cristina T
Phone: (202) 512-4841

1 open priority recommendation
Recommendation: To provide the Congress and NASA a reliable estimate of program cost and schedule that are useful to support management and stakeholder decisions, the NASA Administrator should direct the Orion program to perform an updated JCL analysis including updating cost and schedule estimates in adherence with cost and schedule estimating best practices.

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Status: Open
Priority recommendation

Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation, stating that the agency reviewed, in detail, the Orion integrated cost/schedule and risk analysis methodology and determined the rigor to be a sufficient basis for the agency commitments. In January 2018, NASA officials stated that they have no plans to update the joint confidence level analysis for the Orion program. We maintain that NASA should update its analysis that informed its baseline because we found that the cost and schedule estimates underlying those baselines are not reliable, as they did not conform to best practices. Further, an updated analysis would be beneficial given numerous conditions and risks have changed since the analysis was completed, including unexpected delays to the European Service Module and launch date for the first exploration mission.
Director: Cristina Chaplain
Phone: (202) 512-4841

1 open priority recommendation
Recommendation: To ensure that the SLS cost and schedule estimates better conform with best practices and are useful to support management decisions, the NASA Administrator should direct SLS officials to update the SLS cost and schedule estimates, at least annually, to reflect actual costs and schedule and record any reasons for variances before preparing their budget requests for the ensuing fiscal year. To the extent practicable, these updates should also incorporate additional best practices including thoroughly documenting how data were adjusted for use in the update and cross-checking results to ensure they are credible.

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Status: Open
Priority recommendation

Comments: NASA agreed with this recommendation and reported taking steps to address it through its annual assessment of the SLS's current cost and schedule estimates against its Agency Baseline Commitment. The agency provided the results of this assessment but did not address the deficiencies we identified in NASA's original estimate, including thoroughly documenting how data were adjusted for the update and cross-checking the results to ensure credibility. In order to close this recommendation, NASA's estimate of its current costs would ideally include documentation of how data were adjusted for use in the updated estimate as well as an explanation of any estimating methodology crosschecks. At a minimum, the estimate documentation should include an explanation of variances between the original estimate and the current estimate.
Director: Cristina Chaplain
Phone: (202) 512-4841

2 open priority recommendations
Recommendation: To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and to facilitate investment decisions, the NASA's Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish a separate cost and schedule baseline for work required to support the SLS Block I Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) and report this information to the Congress through NASA's annual budget submission. If NASA decides to fly the SLS Block I beyond EM-2, establish separate life cycle cost and schedule baseline estimates for those efforts, to include funding for operations and sustainment, and report this information annually to Congress via the agency's budget submission.

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Status: Open
Priority recommendation

Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation, stating that it defined and documented life cycle costs for SLS to a first demonstrated capability, consistent with cost estimating best practices and NASA project and program management policy and that it would report costs associated with the second exploration mission via its annual budget submission. Best practices for cost estimating recognize that NASA's evolutionary development approach for SLS helps reduce risk and provide capabilities more quickly, but reporting costs via the budget alone will not provide information about potential costs over the long-term and progress cannot be assessed without a baseline that serves as a means to compare current costs against expected costs. NASA needs to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for work required to support SLS for EM-2 to address this recommendation.
Recommendation: To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and to facilitate investment decisions, because NASA intends to use the increased capabilities of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations efforts well into the future and has chosen to estimate costs associated with achieving the capabilities, the NASA's Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional capability that encompass all life cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment. When NASA cannot fully specify costs due to lack of well-defined missions or flight manifests, forecast a cost estimate range -- including life cycle costs -- having minimum and maximum boundaries. These baselines or ranges should be reported to Congress annually via the agency's budget submission.

Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Status: Open
Priority recommendation

Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation, stating that it had established separate programs for SLS, Orion, and the ground systems and adopted a block upgrade approach for SLS. While NASA's prior establishment of SLS, Orion, and the ground systems as separate programs lends some insight into expected costs and schedule at the broader program level, it does not meet the intent of the recommendation because cost and schedule identified at that level is unlikely to provide the detail necessary to monitor the progress of each block against a baseline. To address this recommendation, NASA needs to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations capability blocks that encompass all life-cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment.