Keith's note: Based on a recent NASA Freedom of Information Act response CASIS has been operating for two years without the Annual Program Plan it is required to have. Or maybe it is. Either way NASA doesn't seem to care.
On 5 April 2016 I submitted a FOIA request to NASA for information related to CASIS. CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is the non-profit organization that NASA relies upon to operate its research facilities aboard the International Space Station. CASIS gets $15 million a year from NASA to do this and relies on this funding for 99.97% of its annual budget.
At first the NASA HQ FOIA refused to even consider my FOIA request as a "media" request despite the fact that I have been accredited as media by NASA for more than 15 years. After a lot of emails, complaints, and foot dragging, NASA HQ's FOIA office finally complied with my FOIA request. To their credit they provided a lot of information which is going to take some time to analyze. My request was focused and straightforward:
"I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request. I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request."
Let's start with the means whereby NASA and CASIS agree on what CASIS should be doing i.e. the CASIS Annual Program Plan. In response to the FOIA request NASA provided CASIS Annual Program Plans for FY 2012 (submitted 31 October 2011); 2013 (submitted 21 March 2013); and 2014 (submitted 20 October 2013). However NASA did not provide a copy of the CASIS Annual Program Plan for FY 2015 (FY 2015 began on 1 October 2014) or the plan for FY 2016 (FY 2016 began on 1 October 2015). Both Annual Program Plans clearly fall within the period of time and scope specified in my FOIA request.
These reports are required to be prepared and submitted annually. According to the Cooperative Agreement between NASA and CASIS:
"Section 3.2.1 Planning Process
CASIS Will prepare an Annual Program Plan (APP). The APP will provide a detailed plan of CASIS' proposed activities for the following year and shall require CASIS to use its best efforts to meet the objectives of the Cooperative Agreement. The parties will not be required to modify the Cooperative Agreement in the event the APP changes requirements in the Cooperative Agreement and/or the referenced proposal and clarification response. During the course of performance, if it appears that performance metrics will not be met, CASIS will provide a proposed adjustment in accordance with Article 3.3 Agreement Administration.
NASA will conduct an annual program review that shall be held to evaluate performance against the current APP and review the proposed APP for the next year. The Grants Officer, in conjunction with the CATO, will approve the next year's budget based on review of the APP. CASIS will prepare the APP in cooperation and consultation with the NASA Liaison, and the APP will be included in the agreement only through formal amendments to this agreement. The annual budget shall be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in Attachment 1.
3.2.2. Performance Measurement
NASA and CASIS shall collaboratively develop annual and quarterly performance metrics as part of the annual planning process and shall reflect these performance metrics in the APP. Accomplishment of performance metrics shall be reflected in annual and quarterly reports and shall be used by the CATO to monitor CASIS' use of best efforts towards meeting the objectives of this Cooperative Agreement. The metrics to be used fr FY2011 and FY2012 will be collaboratively developed as part of the first year APP. The APP for FY2013 and future years may modify the initial performance metrics through the annual APP process set forth in section 3.2.1."
NASA's FOIA response also included CASIS quarterly reports for FY 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 - some of which are partially redacted. (I will be analyzing these reports in future articles). However, there is an odd lack of cover letters, transmittal memos, and other things that fall under my FOIA request that you would expect to accompany the submittal of these plans and quarterly reports by CASIS to NASA. Apparently CASIS just sends things to NASA without a cover letter designating the recipient. Equally absent are responses by NASA to these program plans and quarterly reports. Apparently NASA has no issues with everything that CASIS submits. Or maybe NASA doesn't care enough to respond.
Given the amount and detail with which NASA provided other material in response to my FOIA request several conclusions can be made with regard to the missing CASIS ANnual Program Plans. Perhaps NASA did not completely comply with the FOIA request and withheld the FY 2015 and FY 2016 Annual Program Plans submitted by CASIS without specifying why. Oddly they provided three CASIS Annual Program Plans in their entirety. Or perhaps NASA has not enforced the terms included in the cooperative agreement with CASIS. That would mean that there have been no Annual Program Plans submitted by CASIS for FY 2015 and FY 2016. Or maybe NASA just can't find them.
Given the large volume of material NASA provided in response to my FOIA request one would have to assume that CASIS has been operating without a NASA-approved Annual Program Plan for the past two years. If there are CASIS Annual Program Plans in place for FY 2015 and FY 2016 then it is rather revealing that NASA can't seem to find copies of those plans. Given that NASA spends $15 million a year on what those plans represent - plans that cover the use of the U.S. portion of the International Space Station National Laboratory - you have to wonder if anyone actually knows what is going up there.
More to follow.
- A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement
- Does Anyone at CASIS Really Know What CASIS is Doing?
- In Search Of A CASIS Report Card
- CASIS Had A Bad Week In Washington
- CASIS Is Not The Best Way To Use a Space Station
- CASIS Still Ignores Commercial Research on ISS
- NASA and CASIS Chase Old Research Paradigms In Orbit
- Sometimes NASA Has Technology SpinINs
- Trying To Understand CASIS Press and Social Media Impact
- Important Golf in Space Announcement from CASIS
- Are CASIS Funding "Commitments" Just Smoke and Mirrors?
- CASIS Has No Idea How To Raise Money - Only How To Spend It
- Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS