NASA IG Faults NASA On Management of Infrastructure Projects

NASA IG Faults NASA On Management of Infrastructure Projects

A day before a House committee marks up legislation to give NASA an extra $4 billion to fix aging facilities around the country, the NASA Inspector General is out with a report faulting the agency for how it manages such projects now. The report complains about a lack of “rigor” in deciding where to apply Construction of Facilities funding already provided through the regular appropriations process.

The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) itself does not draw a connection between the timing of the report’s release and congressional action on the reconciliation bill that will be marked up by the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee tomorrow, but the report is timely whether coincidental or planned.

The House committee is proposing an additional $4 billion for NASA’s infrastructure needs on top of the agency’s regular FY2022 appropriations as part of the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package pending on Capitol Hill.

The committee’s proposal does not get into details of where the $4 billion would be spent. Exactly where NASA should invest federal funding for Construction of Facilities (CoF) is the crux of the OIG report.

The OIG found that NASA spent about $359 million per year for the past 5 years on CoF.  “Given the age and changing needs for NASA’s infrastructure, proper management of CoF funds is crucial to ensure that the right facilities are built or maintained in the right locations to meet mission requirements.”

NASA opened its doors 63 years ago in October 1958, almost exactly one year after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik. Four of NASA’s field centers — Ames, Armstrong, Langley and Glenn — were transferred from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA’s forebear, and two (Marshall and JPL) from the military. The other four (Goddard, Johnson, Kennedy, Stennis) were built from scratch in that era.

The OIG report points out how many of NASA’s facilities at the Centers are over 50 years old.

NASA spends money every year to replace or modernize aging facilities, “roughly $359 million each year over the past 5 years,” in managing what the OIG says is “$40 billion in facility assets with an inventory of more than 5,000 buildings and structures.”

 “… over 75 percent of this infrastructure is beyond its design life and the Agency faces a deferred maintenance backlog of $2.66 billion as of 2020.”

The extra $4 billion proposed by the House SS&T committee clearly would help eliminate that backlog, but the OIG has words of caution for NASA and its Facilities and Real Estate Division (FRED).

The markup is tomorrow morning at 10:00 am ET. Watch on the committee’s website.

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