NASA systems: Houston, we have a problem

NASA's has bungled its $982.7 million enterprise resource planning system project in a way that caused the agency to lose track of $2 billion in its Treasury Department account and forced it to adjust its books, witnesses told a House committee this afternoon.

NASA now estimates that its Integrated Financial Management Program is $121.8 million, or 14 percent, over its lifecycle cost estimate, according to the General Accounting Office.

Worse yet, NASA mistakes in implementing the ERP system it bought from SAP have perpetuated the agency's lack of adequate financial controls, GAO told the Government Reform Committee Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management.

Gregory Kutz, GAO's director of financial management and assurance, said the IFMPS was not built with the needs of program managers and cost estimators in mind.

As a result, he said, "NASA will continue to have two sets of books."

NASA inspector general Robert W. Cobb said NASA has overused contractors in the process of adopting the SAP software, which still suffers from "bugs in the system" and generates data "that is not user friendly."

Cobb added that "it may be years before NASA gets an unqualified or 'clean' audit."

NASA chief financial officer Gwendolyn Sykes Brown told the panel that her agency has "a significant challenge ahead" as it implements the new financial system.

But she added that NASA officials have formed teams to create a "financial get-well plan" that will fix the problems.

Brown described the problems NASA faced in consolidating the main financial systems of its 10 centers as well as more than 120 smaller subsystems.

"NASA underestimated the amount of data that had to be identified, validated, documented and adjusted during our fiscal year end closing process," Brown said.

But a GAO analysis of NASA's problems said the agency had mismanaged several phases of the ERP project, such as:

  • Failing to build an enterprise architecture for the ERP system


  • Failing to use disciplined cost estimates or recognized best practices in preparing lifecycle cost estimates for the IFMP


  • Delaying implementation of many key external reporting functions.


  • GAO added that the SAP software NASA selected does not capture and report key budget information.

    The audit agency said NASA would not be able to rely on technology alone to solve its financial management problems, but would have to transform its financial management organization.

    About the Author

    Connect with the GCN staff on Twitter @GCNtech.

    Featured

    • Cybersecurity

      DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

      Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

    • Defense
      Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

      Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

      On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

    • Census
      shutterstock image

      2020 Census to include citizenship question

      The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

    Stay Connected

    FCW Update

    Sign up for our newsletter.

    I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.