NASA financial program in danger

GAO report

A General Accounting Office report issued May 30 criticizes NASA's financial management plan, saying the space agency is in danger of producing its third consecutive failed financial management system.

In April 2000, NASA began its Integrated Financial Management Program to attempt to modernize its financial management process and systems. IFMP is NASA's third attempt at developing a financial management and business process system. To date, the system has had some successes, but GAO says more needs to be done.

"The core financial module, if implemented as planned, may provide some improvement to NASA's accounting system environment," according to the report. "However, NASA is not following key best practices for acquiring and implementing" the Integrated Financial Management Program.

NASA's contract management has been on GAO's "high-risk" list since 1990.

The report says NASA has not evaluated how different components within the program will work together and "does not have a methodology for doing so."

"By acquiring IFMP components without first understanding system component relationships, NASA has increased its risks of implementing a system that will not optimize mission performance and will cost more and take longer to implement than necessary," the report read.

GAO recommended that NASA develop and implement:

* A short-term plan to identify and mitigate the risks associated with relying on already-deployed IFMP commercial components.

* A longer-term strategy for acquiring additional IFMP components that includes implementing a methodology for commercial system component dependency analysis.

In its response to the report, Frederick Gregory, NASA's deputy administrator, concurred with the first recommendation, but said he believes the agency already has an effective longer-term strategy in place.

"The risks associated with integration were identified early in the process, and appropriate mitigation strategies were developed and implemented," Gregory wrote. "As noted in the report, the need for extensive dependency analysis and associated integration risks can be mitigated by using an [Enterprise Resource Planning] suite integration strategy rather than trying to integrate third-party products. However, we take exception to the assertion that NASA is not following that approach."

Gregory noted that the IFMP is "on budget and on schedule" and that its resume management and position description management modules have been implemented agencywide.

GAO said it reaffirms its position and NASA is in danger of failing to implement a sound financial management program for the third time.

"Unless these issues are successfully addressed, NASA is at increased risk of having IFMP become its third unsuccessful attempt to transform its financial management and business operations," according to the GAO report.

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