YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Nation

NASA's Spending Practices Attacked in Report

November 03, 2001|From Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — With overruns in the billions, NASA must scale back its international space station project and reorganize management to get costs under control, an outside panel of experts said in a blistering report Friday.

The task force, including two Nobel laureates, spent three months looking into the financial problems of the space station program.

NASA's unofficial estimates this year have ranged from $4 billion to $5 billion in space station cost overruns over the next five years.

The U.S. cost of the space station has grown from an estimated $17.4 billion in 1993 to about $30 billion because of launch delays and unreasonable budget caps set by Washington, the panel said.

Washington has earmarked $8.3 billion to finish the job over the next five years. But NASA cannot accomplish that "without radical reform," the task force said.

"The existing deficiencies in management structure, institutional culture, cost estimating and program control must be acknowledged and corrected for the program to move forward in a credible fashion," the task force said.

To reduce costs, the space station work force will have to be cut, said A. Thomas Young, a retired Maryland aerospace executive who served as chairman. He did not specify how many jobs should be eliminated.

He also said the agency should reduce the annual number of space shuttle flights to the space station from the current six to four to save $668 million from 2002 to 2006. Under that plan, the space station crews would remain in orbit for six months, rather than four or five.

The space station management also needs to be changed, with a single person overseeing both the construction of the project and the scientific research that goes on aboard, Young said.

At the Bush administration's insistence, NASA has shelved plans to add living quarters on the space station and a lifeboat big enough for a six- or seven-person crew. The task force endorsed that go-slow approach for now and said that if NASA has performed credibly after two years, the space agency can move toward a bigger outpost.

"If the demonstration is positive," Young said, "there's an opportunity to go to the point we'd all like to go to, and that's to get the full research potential out of the space station."

The House Science Committee will discuss the report Wednesday.

Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) said the management problems would be difficult if not impossible to fix without a NASA administrator. The agency's chief, Daniel S. Goldin, is leaving in two weeks, and no one has been named to replace him.

Los Angeles Times Articles