NASA slows some IT spending

NASA has placed a moratorium on information technology expenditures that are not considered mission-critical.

The chief information officers of the space agency's centers are evaluating any investments that don't impact the agency's ability to do its job, said Brian Dunbar, a spokesman for NASA.

The expenses considered pre-approved include:

* Maintenance agreements for existing operational hardware and software.

* Emergency replacement of failed components on mission-critical hardware.

* IT consumables such as toner cartridges, labor on existing IT contracts and previously scheduled desktop system refreshment.

For those purchases facing scrutiny, "the goal is not to add any more than another 24 hours to the whole process," Dunbar said. "They are being reviewed to make sure they are in line with the agency's mission."

That mission "is science-driven and...will be carried out in a new commitment to fiscal responsibility and wide use of our assets," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in a speech delivered April 12, 2002, at Syracuse University in New York.

The agency spends more than $1.5 billion a year on its computer systems.

Paul Strassmann, who has been NASA's CIO since mid-July, unveiled the details of an IT overhaul in August that he said would deliver "substantial savings."

A major part of the plan includes building two mission control centers — modeled after those that remotely manage the complex machinery of space flights — to run the agency's information systems.

A small-scale version was slated to be operational Oct. 15, 2002, at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. However, that milestone was missed because NASA didn't have a test plan, Dunbar said at the time. The agency is getting closer to having the prototype online, he said this week.

Strassmann, meanwhile, is finalizing job titles for his staff, Dunbar said.

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