GAO Says Constellation Program Needs a Sound Business Case

GAO Says Constellation Program Needs a Sound Business Case

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report today concluding that the cost and schedule for NASA’s Constellation program will remain uncertain “until a sound business case is established.” It reported that NASA’s cost estimate for Ares 1 and Orion is “up to $49 billion of the over $97 billion” to be spent on Constellation through 2020, though the agency will not know the program’s ultimate cost until technical and design challenges have been addressed.

The report was requested by the House Science and Technology Committee, which issued a press release in which Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said it was clear NASA had not been given adequate resources to implement the Constellation program and therefore the GAO findings should come as no surprise, adding: “GAO’s report provides a sobering indication of the negative impact that funding shortfalls can have on complex and technically difficult space flight programs like Constellation, no matter how dedicated and skillful the program’s workforce is.”

Among GAO’s findings are the following:

“NASA is still struggling to develop a solid business case-including firm requirements, mature technologies, a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time-needed to justify moving the Constellation program forward into the implementation phase.”

“NASA estimates that Ares I and Orion represent up to $49 billion of the over $97 billion estimated to be spent on the Constellation program through 2020. While the agency has already obligated more than $10 billion in contracts, at this point NASA does not know how much Ares I and Orion will ultimately cost, and will not know until technical and design challenges have been addressed.”

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