NRC Recommends Agencies Go It Alone on Space and Earth Science Missions

NRC Recommends Agencies Go It Alone on Space and Earth Science Missions

A National Research Council (NRC) report that assesses impediments to collaboration on space and earth science missions recommends that unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, agencies should not partner on them. The report was released today.

The committee that wrote the report was co-chaired by Dr. James Baker, former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Dr. Daniel Baker, Director of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). Dan Baker also is a member of the NRC’s Space Studies Board and co-chair of the ongoing NRC Decadal Survey on solar and space physics.

An NRC press release quotes Dr. James Baker as saying “A common misperception among policymakers and individual agencies is that collaboration on these missions will save money or somehow boost capabilities. … However, multiagency partnerships generally have just the opposite effect and drive up overall mission costs because of schedule delays, added levels of management, and redundant administrative processes.”

While international collaboration “suffers from the same increase in cost and complexity” such missions “typically receive much more planning upfront…” according to the press release.

In those cases where interagency partnering is mandated, the NRC lists criteria that should be met. If the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) or Office of Management and Budget (OMB), or Congress, want interagency cooperation, it says, specific incentives and support should be provided and a new governance mechanism may be needed for coordinated oversight since “OMB and OSTP are not suited to day-to-day oversight.”

Congress directed NASA to contract with the NRC to conduct the study in the 2008 NASA Authorization Act (P.L. 110-422).

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