Moving The Goal Posts

Remarks by NASA Administrator Griffin to the NASA Advisory Council Science Subcommittees (19 July 2006)

"Our stakeholders in Congress are concerned that NASA not under-estimate the costs or complexity of our programs. To that point, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 requires even more stringent management actions than those in the Nunn-McCurdy legislation for NASA missions costing more than $250 million and which exceed their baselined costs. I would ask everyone in the science community who proposes missions to NASA to become familiar with that legislative provision, which is now the law of the land and which I and my managers must follow."

Editor's note: Of course, one way that NASA often seems to get around a lot of this is to move the goal posts around and redefine what the official "baseline cost" is of a mission. Fiddle with the mission enough and you get a chance to come up with a new baseline that makes a lot of cost overruns go away - right?

See Public Law 109-155 -- DEC. 30, 2005, Section 103

SEC. 103. BASELINES AND COST CONTROLS.

    (a) Conditions for Development-
      (1) IN GENERAL- NASA shall not enter into a contract for the development of a major program unless the Administrator determines that--
        (A) the technical, cost, and schedule risks of the program are clearly identified and the program has developed a plan to manage those risks;
        (B) the technologies required for the program have been demonstrated in a relevant laboratory or test environment; and
        (C) the program complies with all relevant policies, regulations, and directives of NASA.
      (2) REPORT- The Administrator shall transmit a report describing the basis for the determination required under paragraph (1) to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate at least 30 days before entering into a contract for development under a major program.
      (3) NONDELEGATION- The Administrator may not delegate the determination requirement under this subsection, except in cases in which the Administrator has a conflict of interest.
    (b) Major Program Annual Reports-
      (1) REQUIREMENT- Annually, at the same time as the President's annual budget submission to the Congress, the Administrator shall transmit to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report that includes the information required by this section for each major program for which NASA proposes to expend funds in the subsequent fiscal year. Reports under this paragraph shall be known as Major Program Annual Reports.
      (2) BASELINE REPORT- The first Major Program Annual Report for each major program shall include a Baseline Report that shall, at a minimum, include--
        (A) the purposes of the program and key technical characteristics necessary to fulfill those purposes;
        (B) an estimate of the life-cycle cost for the program, with a detailed breakout of the development cost, program reserves, and an estimate of the annual costs until development is completed;
        (C) the schedule for development, including key program milestones;
        (D) the plan for mitigating technical, cost, and schedule risks identified in accordance with subsection (a)(1)(A); and
        (E) the name of the person responsible for making notifications under subsection (c), who shall be an individual whose primary responsibility is overseeing the program.
      (3) INFORMATION UPDATES- For major programs for which a Baseline Report has been submitted, each subsequent Major Program Annual Report shall describe any changes to the information that had been provided in the Baseline Report, and the reasons for those changes.
    (c) Notification-
      (1) REQUIREMENT- The individual identified under subsection (b)(2)(E) shall immediately notify the Administrator any time that individual has reasonable cause to believe that, for the major program for which he or she is responsible--
        (A) the development cost of the program is likely to exceed the estimate provided in the Baseline Report of the program by 15 percent or more; or
        (B) a milestone of the program is likely to be delayed by 6 months or more from the date provided for it in the Baseline Report of the program.
      (2) REASONS- Not later than 30 days after the notification required under paragraph (1), the individual identified under subsection (b)(2)(E) shall transmit to the Administrator a written notification explaining the reasons for the change in the cost or milestone of the program for which notification was provided under paragraph (1).
      (3) NOTIFICATION OF CONGRESS- Not later than 15 days after the Administrator receives a written notification under paragraph (2), the Administrator shall transmit the notification to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate.
    (d) Fifteen Percent Threshold- Not later than 30 days after receiving a written notification under subsection (c)(2), the Administrator shall determine whether the development cost of the program is likely to exceed the estimate provided in the Baseline Report of the program by 15 percent or more, or whether a milestone is likely to be delayed by 6 months or more. If the determination is affirmative, the Administrator shall--
      (1) transmit to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, not later than 15 days after making the determination, a report that includes--
        (A) a description of the increase in cost or delay in schedule and a detailed explanation for the increase or delay;
        (B) a description of actions taken or proposed to be taken in response to the cost increase or delay; and
        (C) a description of any impacts the cost increase or schedule delay, or the actions described under subparagraph (B), will have on any other program within NASA; and
      (2) if the Administrator intends to continue with the program, promptly initiate an analysis of the program, which shall include, at a minimum--
        (A) the projected cost and schedule for completing the program if current requirements of the program are not modified;
        (B) the projected cost and the schedule for completing the program after instituting the actions described under paragraph (1)(B); and
        (C) a description of, and the projected cost and schedule for, a broad range of alternatives to the program.
    NASA shall complete an analysis initiated under paragraph (2) not later than 6 months after the Administrator makes a determination under this subsection. The Administrator shall transmit the analysis to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives and Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate not later than 30 days after its completion.
    (e) Thirty Percent Threshold- If the Administrator determines under subsection (d) that the development cost of a program will exceed the estimate provided in the Baseline Report of the program by more than 30 percent, then, beginning 18 months after the date the Administrator transmits a report under subsection (d)(1), the Administrator shall not expend any additional funds on the program, other than termination costs, unless the Congress has subsequently authorized continuation of the program by law. An appropriation for the specific program enacted subsequent to a report being transmitted shall be considered an authorization for purposes of this subsection. If the program is continued, the Administrator shall submit a new Baseline Report for the program no later than 90 days after the date of enactment of the Act under which Congress has authorized continuation of the program.
    (f) Definitions- For the purposes of this section--
      (1) the term `development' means the phase of a program following the formulation phase and beginning with the approval to proceed to implementation, as defined in NASA's Procedural Requirements 7120.5c, dated March 22, 2005;
      (2) the term `development cost' means the total of all costs, including construction of facilities and civil servant costs, from the period beginning with the approval to proceed to implementation through the achievement of operational readiness, without regard to funding source or management control, for the life of the program;
      (3) the term `life-cycle cost' means the total of the direct, indirect, recurring, and nonrecurring costs, including the construction of facilities and civil servant costs, and other related expenses incurred or estimated to be incurred in the design, development, verification, production, operation, maintenance, support, and retirement of a program over its planned lifespan, without regard to funding source or management control; and
      (4) the term `major program' means an activity approved to proceed to implementation that has an estimated life-cycle cost of more than $250,000,000.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 11, 2008 7:27 PM.

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