Auditors again deride NASA financial system, EA

Some Progress Made toward Implementing GAO Recommendations Related to NASA's Integrated Financial Ma

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NASA risks inaccurate accounting of its most expensive space missions because the agency is still struggling to build a modern financial management system, after more than a decade of federal auditor warnings.

Since 2003, when the Government Accountability Office last reviewed the agency’s integrated financial management program (IFMP), progress has been slow, especially in establishing an enterprise architecture. Of the 45 recommendations made in 2003, NASA has completed three and has barely started or not started 29.

“For more than a decade, we have identified weak contract management and the lack of reliable financial and performance information as posing significant challenges to NASA’s ability to effectively run its largest and most costly programs,” a GAO report released last week states.

“The longer NASA waits to fully implement our recommendations, the greater the risk is that the agency will continue to operate a system that does less than promised and costs more than expected.”

NASA officials expect to complete the IFMP in fiscal 2008. The system is supposed to generate meaningful, reliable and timely information to support day-to-day program management and external financial reporting.

Last week’s GAO report -- requested by Reps. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), ranking member -- states that NASA has not developed an EA policy demonstrating agencywide commitment, or written a policy for guiding the development of the EA.

Throughout the report’s attachments, NASA officials and GAO auditors argue over the condition of NASA’s EA.

According to the final report, NASA’s chief technology officer said to auditors in May that the agency was in the process of drafting the EA policies. The official told the authors of the report that the policies would be approved by July.

After reading a draft of GAO’s report, NASA deputy administrator Frederick Gregory wrote in a letter, “NASA respectfully challenges the GAO’s assessment that NASA acquired and implemented significant components of IFMP without having and using an enterprise architecture to guide and constrain the IFMP program. NASA has established a draft written/approved policy guiding the development of the enterprise architecture. The policy was submitted for final approval in July 2005.”

Gregory recently resigned as deputy administrator.

According to auditors, GAO still has not seen these EA policies, months later.

In addition, GAO states that NASA has not provided documentation of the metrics it uses to quantify the progress and quality of architecture plans or calculated EA return on investment. The GAO reports the NASA CTO stated the agency would issue a report on ROI by the end of fiscal 2005.

Gregory wrote in response, “The Agency measures and reports on the quality of EA products. ROI for the Enterprise Architecture program is reported as a part of the Office of Management & Budget business case submission and reporting process.”

GAO reports no evidence of ROI measurements.

“NASA has yet to provide us with documentation of the metrics it developed and used to ensure that progress against architecture plans and quality of the products are measured and reported,” GAO officials replied in later comments. “Also, NASA has yet to provide us with the Office of Management and Budget business case submission."

NASA has made headway in instituting an audit trail for life-cycle cost estimate supervision.

“Although additional work remains, we believe NASA is on the right track to fully implement this recommendation,” the auditors wrote.

The GAO’s overall recommendation is to create an integrated enterprise master schedule with milestones that track improvement, plans already in place, completion dates, the methodology for measuring progress and clear accountability for each action not completed in a timely and effective manner.

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