oversight

Space Operations: NASA Is Not Properly Safeguarding Valuable Data From Past Missions

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-02.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                                                        .
                    I’nited   States   General   Accounting   Office

GAO                 Report to the Chairman, Committee on
                    Science, Space, and Technology, House
                    of Representatives


March   1990
                    SPACEOPERATIONS
                    NASA Is Not Properly !
                    Safeguarding Valuable i
                    Data From Past        :
                    Missions




                                        ----
GAO/IMTEC-YO-   1                                                      “c,
                                                                       L
Information    Management   and
Technology    Division

B-237585

March 2. 1990

The Honorable Robert A. Roe
Chairman, Committee on Science, Space,
  and Technology
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Chairman:

This report assesses how well USA is managing, storing, and archiving space science data
acquired from its past missions and identifies a number of problems and challenges that MSA
faces in ensuring the integrity and utility of massive volumes of valuable scientific data. As
agreed with your office, we will issue another report at a later date on whether a mechanism
exists for obtaining input from the scientific community on what types of space science data
should be preserved and archived.

As arranged with your office, unless you publicly release the contents of this report earlier,
we plan no further distribution until 30 days after the date of this letter. At that time, we
will send copies to other appropriate congressional committees; the Administrator, NASA; the
Administrator, General Services Administration; the Archivist of the United States; and
make copies available to other interested parties upon request.

This work was performed under the direction of Samuel W. Bowlin, Director for Defense and
Security Information Systems, who can be reached on (202) 275-4649. Other major
contributors are listed in appendix VII.

Sincerely yours,




Ralph V. Carlone
Assistant Comptroller General
Executive Summary


                   The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)is responsi-
Purpose            ble for space exploration and the management, archiving, and dissemi-
                   nation of space science data. Since 1958, the agency has spent about $24
                   billion on its space science program and successfully launched over 260
                   scientific missions. Data from these missions have expanded our under-
                   standing of the earth, its solar system, and the universe. Through these
                   past missions NASA has acquired a massive volume of data stored on an
                   estimated 1 million reels of magnetic tape for immediate and long-term
                   scientific use. The nation’s long-term ability to monitor changes in the
                   earth’s environment, such as the depletion of ozone and the destruction
                   of tropical rain forests, may depend on data from early missions.

                   Future missions are expected to produce additional volumes of data
                   unparalleled in NASA'S history. Two missions-the Earth Observing Sys-
                   tem and the Hubble Space Telescope -are expected to generate more
                   data than KASA collected during the past 30 years, and will likely require
                   the use of advanced data storage technologies.

                   Given the nation’s investment in space exploration, the data’s long-term
                   value, and the need to safeguard this irreplaceable information, the
                   House Committee on Science, Space and Technology asked GAO to assess
                   how well NASA is protecting the tapes containing this information from
                   loss and deterioration.


                   Because many of the data from past missions are irreplaceable, they
Background         should be managed as a valuable national resource. NA~A stores most of
                   these data on magnetic tapes. Federal regulations, established by the
                   Kational Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the General
                   Services Administration (GSA), require government agencies to follow
                   specific regulations in the management, maintenance, and storage of
                   magnetic tapes. These regulations were adopted to ensure the long-term
                   preservation of data stored on magnetic tapes, the prompt disposal of
                   unneeded tapes, and the efficient management of storage resources.
                   NARA and GSA are responsible for periodic reviews of NASA’S and other
                   federal agencies’ data management and archival activities.


                   Currently, hundreds of thousands of tapes containing space science data
Results in Brief   are stored under deplorable conditions. Furthermore, SASA needs to
                   improve its management of tape archiving and storage activities. It has
                   not performed an agencywide inventory of its magnetic tapes and, con-
                   sequently, does not know what data are retained, or may have been lost.


                   Page 2                              GAO/IMTJZC-90-l   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                          Executive   Summary




                          nor can it easily identify or retrieve tapes being stored in its centers or
                          at universities. Further, KASA has not enforced federal regulations or
                          developed its own standards for minimum acceptable storage, mainte-
                          nance, security and quality control, and inventory practices.

                          SARA  has several steps underway or planned to address certain aspects
                          of the problems noted. However, without the allocation of adequate
                          resources to improve the tape storage and archival facilities, the contin-
                          uing deterioration of the magnetic tapes may result in the permanent
                          loss of irreplaceable space science data. Moreover, unless it continues to
                          improve its management of space science data, NASA will be hard-
                          pressed to effectively and efficiently handle the massive volumes of
                          data expected from its future missions.



Principal Findings

NASA Stores Many of Its    Eight of the 10 tape storage and processing facilities GAO visited did not
                           comply with at least two of the applicable federal regulations estab-
Tapes Under Substandard    lished by SARA. Five of these facilities, which store almost 500,000 of
Conditions                 the 1.2 million tapes identified by GAO, did not comply with more than
                           half the combined federal regulations and industry tape management
                           guidelines. These facilities did not have adequate temperature and
                           humidity control, fire protection, water protection, or tape maintenance.
                           In some instances, GAO found tapes stored in hallways, basements, and
                           dusty warehouses not designed for tape storage. For example, in one
                           major facility GAO found nearly 300,000 tapes packed in boxes covered
                           by dust and stacked on shipping pallets.

                           A general lack of security also poses a serious threat to NASA'S computer
                           resources and space science data holdings. Some facilities GAO visited
                           lacked even a rudimentary access control to guard against unauthorized
                           entry into computer rooms and tape storage areas. Only one facility
                           maintained backup tapes of original data so they could be restored if the
                           originals were stolen or accidentally lost or destroyed. Consequently,
                           without a secure environment, hundreds of thousands of magnetic tapes
                           are susceptible to loss.

                            In contrast, a good storage environment is possible. Two facilities GAO
                            visited complied with most of the applicable federal regulations and
                            industry tape storage guidelines.


                            Page 3                              GAO/lMTEC-SO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                            Executive   Summary




NASA Has Not Performed      NASAdoes not know how many space science data have been retained or
an Agencywide Inventory     archived on magnetic tapes since it began space exploration in 1958. At
                            the facilities it visited, GAO identified almost 1.2 million NASA tapes,
of Tape Holdings            which were stored and managed by various NASA and contractor oper-
                            ated data processing or tape storage facilities, academic institutions, or
                            other federal agencies. Although every facility GAO visited maintained
                            an inventory of its tape holdings, these varied in completeness.


Data Archiving for Past     NASA  has not provided adequate management leadership or funding for
Missions Was Treated as a   its past archival efforts. No one was assigned overall responsibility to
                            ensure that these activities were effectively preserving space science
Low Priority Activity       data; instead, the data archiving responsibilities were diffused among
                            NASA'S headquarters, field centers, and space science mission officials,


                            NASA  has not enforced federal tape management regulations, or devel-
                            oped or adopted agencywide standards for minimum acceptable tape
                            storage conditions, routine tape cleaning and maintenance, security and
                            quality control, and inventory practices. Furthermore, although SARA
                            and GS-4 are responsible for conducting oversight reviews of NASA'S tape
                            management program to assess its effectiveness and identify areas need-
                            ing improvements, neither of these agencies has done so. As reasons for
                            not doing so, NAM cited a lack of resources, and GSA offered no explana-
                            tion but said it plans to strengthen oversight activities.

                            According to NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory officials involved in
                            archiving space science data, these activities were often underfunded.
                            This assessment was echoed by the National Research Council’s Commit-
                            tee for Data Management and Computation which recommended in 1986
                            that KASA establish a budget providing balanced support not only for
                            spacecraft development and mission operations, but also to process, ana-
                            lyze, and archive the acquired space science data. The Committee also
                            noted that the management and archiving of space science data are as
                            important as mission operations, and recommended that NASA allocate
                            additional resources to its long-term space science data handling and
                            archiving activities.


NASA Has Several            NASA  recognizes that significant efforts will be required to correct the
Improvement Efforts         problems noted. Among the positive steps taken are limited tape restora-
                            tion programs, establishment of a task force to reassess the management
Underway                    of data, and a census of data stored at several locations.
                                                  .


                            Page 4                              GAO/IMTEG!Wl   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
-.
                   Executive   Summary




                   to help ensure that its valuable space science data from past missions
                   are adequately stored. maintained, and preserved. These include recom-
                   mendations that NASA (1) conduct a thorough inventory of data, (2)
                   assess their scientific value, (3) copy valuable data and release
                   unneeded tapes for reuse or disposal, and (4) archive the data in facili-
                   ties that meet s.41~4 regulations. Four additional recommendations focus
                   on management improvements by (1) developing and implementing
                   appropriate standards, (2) clearly defining management roles and
                   responsibilities, (3) ensuring that periodic oversight is performed, and
                   (4) allocating adequate resources to data management and archiving
                    activities. Details on GAO’S recommendations to SASA, as well as others
                    made to GSA and SXM, are in chapter 4.


 Agency Comments   guarding space science data as a national resource for future genera-
                   tions, but recognized there was room for improvement and said it was
                   addressing GAO’S recommendations in ongoing or planned programs.
                   While NAS,~‘S limited inventory and tape restoration programs are dis-
                   cussed in the report, its plans for implementing GAO'S other recommen-
                   dations are still evolving, and as such, could not be evaluated.

                    USA   questioned the report’s fairness, balance, and tone. GAO thinks the
                    report fairly describes s~s.4'~ management of space science data hold-
                    ings from past missions. Recognizing that NASA has several important
                    improvement efforts underway, GAO nevertheless believes that the seri-
                    ous conditions under which hundreds of thousands of tapes from past
                    missions are stored, combined with the low priority accorded this impor-
                    tant activity, unquestionably substantiate the report’s conclusions and
                    recommendations. G-40 believes that unless ~4s~ addresses the serious
                    tape management and storage problems noted, irreplaceable data will in
                    fact be lost to future generations.

                    GSA  said it had strengthened its management oversight function. s.~iii
                    agreed that data management had a low priority in NASA and believed
                    this was applicable to records management as well. An evaluation of the
                    comments made by NASA, NAM, and GSA (see appendixes IV, V, and 1’1) is
                    included in chapter 4.




                     Page 5                            GAO/IMTEC-90-l   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Contents


Executive Summary                                                                                            2

Chapter 1                                                                                                    8
Introduction               NASA’s Space Science Data Are Stored on Magnetic Tapes                            8
                           NASA’s Space Science Data Are a Valuable National                                 9
                              Resource

Chapter 2                                                                                                   12
NASA’s Tape                NASA Has Not Performed an Agencywide Inventory of Its
                               Space Science Data Holdings
                                                                                                            13
Management Practices       The Federal Government and Industry Prescribe Tape                               14
Place Space Science            Management Standards
                           Lack of Compliance With Federal and Industry Standards                           16
Data at Risk               A Good Storage Environment Is Achievable                                         29
                           NASA’s Data Restoration Efforts                                                  31

Chapter 3                                                                                                   36
Deficiencies Exist in      Data Management Is Treated as a Low Priority Activity                            36
NASA,~   Oversight   and   Lack Of Manageyent Oversight                                                     37
                           Inadequate Funding for Data Archiving                                            39
Management of Tape         NASA’s Efforts to Strengthen Its Data Management                                 40
Archiving and Storage
Activities
Chapter 4                                                                                                   43
Conclusions and            Conclusions
                           Recommendations
                                                                                                            43
                                                                                                            44
Recommendations
Appendixes                 Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                   48
                           Appendix II: Characteristics of Magnetic Tapes                                   50
                           Appendix III: Facility Compliance With Tape                                      53
                               Management Standards
                           Appendix IV: NASA’s Comments and GAO’s Response                                  59
                           Appendix V: NARA’s Comments and GAO’s Response                                   71
                           Appendix VI: GSA’s Comments                                                      75
                           Appendix VII: Major Contributors to This Report                                  76




                           Page 6                            GAO/IMTEC90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
          Contents




Table     Table 2.1: Selected Tape Processing and Storage Facilities                        14
              Managing NASA Space Science Data

Figures   Figure 2.1: Compliance With NARA’s and Industry Tape                              li
               Management Standards
          Figure 2.2: Tapes Stored Next to an Air Conditioning Unit                         19
          Figure 2.3: Sign Reminding Staff to Sign-Out for Archival                         21
               Tapes When the Tape Library Is Unattended
          Figure 2.4: Tapes Temporarily Stored in a Hallway                                 23
          Figure 2.5: Tapes Stored in a Basement                                            24
          Figure 2.6: Tapes Stored on Pallets Strapped With Steel                           25
               Bands
          Figure 2.7: Electric Heater in Close Proximity to Stored                          26
               Tapes
          Figure 2.8: Tapes Likely Damaged by Flooding                                      27
          Figure 2.9: Water Leak Near NASA Tapes                                            28
          Figure 2.10: EROS Data Center Tape Storage Vault                                  30
          Figure II. 1: Magnetic Tape and Its Principal Contaminants                        50
          Figure 11.2:Foreign Particle Embedded in Magnetic Tape                            51
          Figure 11.3:Major Components of Magnetic Tape                                     52
          Figure III. 1: Records Damaged by Fire at the Washington                          57
               National Records Center




           Abbreviations

           CODMAC Committee on Data Management and Computation
           GAO    General Accounting Office
           GSA       General Services Administration
           IMTEC     Information Management and Technology Division
           IRM       Information Resources Management
           IRAS      Infrared Astronomical Satellite
           JPL       Jet Propulsion Laboratory
           NARA      National Archives and Records Administration
           iQ&A      National Aeronautics and Space Administration
           NIST      National Institute of Standards and Technology
           SSSDC     National Space Science Data Center
           TSSF      Tape Staging and Storage Facility
                                   .

           Page 7                             GAO/IMTEC90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 1

Introduction


                       Since 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (-SAW)
                       has spent over $24 billion on space science. NASA has launched over 260
                       major space science missions and acquired, processed, and distributed
                       massive volumes of data. It has helped to expand and deepen our under-
                       standing of our planet, solar system, and the universe. The data from
                       these missions now includes well over a million reels of magnetic com-
                       puter tape representing a significant national resource needed for future
                       research.

                       Under the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, Congress made
                       NASA responsible for space exploration research and directed it to pro-
                       vide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of space
                       exploration information. The Office of Space Science and Applications is
                       assigned overall management responsibility for NASA’Sdata, while the
                       Office of Management provides agencywide oversight of information
                       resources management activities. The National Archives and Records
                       Administration (SARA) and the General Services Administration (GSA)
                       are responsible for periodic reviews of NASA’S and other federal agencies’
                       activities in managing and archiving their data.


                       The majority of data from past SASA missions is stored on at least 1.2
NASA’s Space Science   million magnetic tapes which have the capacity to store over 90 billion
Data Are Stored on     pages of text.’ Although the agency is already storing massive amounts
Magnetic Tapes         of data, these amounts will be dwarfed by the expected stream of data
                       from its future missions. For example, the chief scientist for the Earth
                       Observing System estimates that the system, scheduled for launch in
                       1998, is expected to generate one terabit’ of data each day for at least
                       five years. According to the Library of Congress’ Assistant Director for
                       Research, given this volume of data, every 12 weeks the Earth Observ-
                       ing System spacecraft will generate a volume of data:! equivalent to the
                       text contained in all 15 million books held by the Library of Congress.
                       NASA has made the National Space Science Data Center (PSDC) its princi-
                       pal archival and data dissemination facility. ~XSSDC,located at the God-
                       dard Space Flight Center (Goddard) in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages
                       over 113,000 magnetic tapes. h-As.4also stores over a million tapes in a

                       ‘This estimate is based on the storage capacity of a standard 2,400 foot long tape, with data stored at
                       6,250 bits per inch.

                       ‘One terabit of data equals to IO’” bits (1.000,000,000,000 or 1 trillion bits). About 700 high density
                       (6,250 bits per inch) tapes would be required to store 1 terabit of data.

                       .‘This estimate is based on assumption that an average book contains 300 pages of text. \vlth 100
                       words per page and 6 characters per word.



                       Page 8                                            GAO/MTEC-SO-1       Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                             Chapter 1
                             Introduction




                             variety of XC% or contractor-operated storage facilities. The Tape Stag-
                             ing and Storage Facility (TSSF), in Landover, Maryland, is the largest,
                             with responsibility for storing and tracking over 860,000 tapes from
                             missions managed by Goddard. An unknown volume of NASA tapes is
                             also stored by individual scientists and research teams at major univer-
                             sities. NASA'S tapes are aging, with a growing number at least 15 to 20
                             years old.


Magnetic Tapes Require       In the last two decades, computer magnetic tape emerged as the preva-
                             lent mass storage medium used by industry and government for both
Maintenance                  intermediate and archival data storage. Magnetic tape is durable, porta-
                             ble, and relatively cheap but must be properly managed, maintained,
                             and stored to prevent data losses. Federal regulations and guidelines
                             require government agencies to follow specific standards in the manage-
                             ment, maintenance, and storage of magnetic tapes. These standards
                             were adopted to ensure the long-term preservation of valuable data
                             stored on magnetic tapes and the efficient management of storage
                             resources.

                             According to SARA, the International Council on Archives, and industry,
                             a magnetic tape that has been properly stored and maintained may last
                             about 10 years. General industry practices and proposed SARA regula-
                             tions require that all tapes 10 years old be copied. Data deterioration or
                             losses are mainly due to physical damage to tape caused by mishandling,
                             contamination, and poor storage environment.


                              Because many of the data retain their scientific value indefinitely and
NASA’s Space Science          are difficult and costly to acquire, the scientific community sees them as
Data Are a Valuable           a significant national resource that must be safeguarded and preserved.
National Resource             Although there are numerous characteristics determining the long-term
                              value of scientific data, scientists agree that in general these include
                              data that:

                         l    are unique and may not be replicated by future missions;
                         l    may be related to or enhanced by data acquired by other past and future
                              missions;
                         l    may be needed to plan future missions;
                         l    entail continuous, multiyear, global coverage and may be needed for
                              studies of long-term environmental changes;
                         l    were not fully analyzed;



                              Page 9                             GAO/IMTEC90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                             Chapter 1
                             Introduction




                         l   were processed using old computer technology and analytical techniques
                             and should be reprocessed and reanalyzed; and
                         l   are of significant historical interest.

                             An argument for the preservation of data was also made by the National
                             Research Council’s Committee on Data Management and Computation
                             (CODMAC) which noted that:

                             “Many of the uses of the [space science] data cannot be foreseen in advance. Fre-
                             quently, new ideas for uses of the data emerge long after the data are acquired, as a
                             result of the continuously evolving understanding of the physical processes under
                             study... Even though some of the acquired data may never be fully utilized, it is
                             often not possible to decide in advance which data will be of critical value in gaining
                             future new scientific understanding.“4

                             The long-term value of data and the need to preserve selected data from
                             earlier missions are underscored by the need to develop multiyear data
                             bases which would allow scientists to measure and track global changes
                             in earth’s environment. For example, the recent effort to evaluate the
                             extent and impact of the global depletion of atmospheric ozone, the
                             destruction of the tropical rain forests, and the changes in global
                             drought patterns may require developing and using data bases that
                             include data from earlier earth observation missions.


Future Data Pose              During the next two decades, NASA will face significant challenges man-
Significant Challenges        aging and archiving its data. Between 1980 and 2000, LASA has or plans
                              to support 84 missions in four scientific disciplines, including planetary
                              and lunar, earth sciences, space physics, and astrophysics. These mis-
                              sions will produce a volume of data unparalleled in NASA'S history. For
                              example, two of the planned missions, the Earth Observing System and
                              the Hubble Space Telescope are expected to generate amounts of data
                              many times greater than NASAhas collected over the past 30 years. NASA
                              scientists who develop advanced science data management systems
                              recently noted that:




                              ‘Issues and Recommendations
                                                        AssociatedWith Distributed Computation and Data Management Sys-
                              tems for the Space Sciences,Committee on Data Management and Computation, Space Science Board,
                              Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources, National Research Council, National
                              Academy Press, Washington. D.C., 1986. p. 104.



                              Page 10                                       GAO/IMTJ3G!W1     Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 1
Introduction




./   it is anticipated that the future ability of PiASA to function and perform mean-
ingful space and earth related research will be significantly affected by its inability
to manage and use its collected information to derive knowledge.“’




 ‘The Development of a Prototype Intelligent User Interface Subsystem for NASA’s Scientific Data-
 base Systems, NASA TechnIcal Memorandum 87821, .June 1987, p. 1.



 Page 11                                        GAO/IMTEGSO-1      Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 2

NASA’s Tape ManagementPracticesPlace
SpaceScienceData at Risk

              USA   has failed to properly store, maintain, and manage its magnetic
              tapes containing valuable and irreplaceable data. It has not performed
              an agencywide inventory of its magnetic tapes and does not maintain a
              central listing of its data holdings. Therefore, NASA neither knows how
              many data were retained or lost on magnetic tapes since 1958, nor can it
              easily identify or retrieve data being stored. Problems with SASA'S data
              archiving activities are not new. Several problem areas needing atten-
              tion were identified by us and others in 1977, 1982, and 1988. Although
              there could be more, our review identified about 1.2 million tapes stored
              at various NASA and contract data processing or storage facilities, aca-
              demic institutions, and other federal agencies.

              NASA  has no tape management standards of its own, and has failed to
              properly store or manage its magnetic tapes in accordance with stan-
              dards established by NARA, GSA, National Institute of Standards and
              Technology (NET). and tape manufacturers’ instructions. As a result, the
              valuable and often irreplaceable data acquired by MSA at a cost of bil-
              lions of dollars, are being managed and stored under deplorable condi-
              tions. According to .JPLofficials, many of its older data stored on
              magnetic tapes are deteriorating because of aging, lack of maintenance,
              and poor storage conditions. They noted that almost all of NASA'S data
              are at risk, including holdings at universities and NASA centers. More-
              over, some important data may have been irretrievably lost. For exam-
              ple, we found several hundred thousand magnetic tapes packed in boxes
              stored on loading pallets, strapped with steel bands under substandard
              conditions, and without adequate environmental control or maintenance.
              Accordingly, much of the data may be deteriorating and at risk of being
              permanently damaged or lost.

              NASA has taken several steps to address the deterioration   of it.s magnetic
              tapes, including limited and costly restoration of older tapes and trans-
              fer of selected data from older tapes to optical disks. However, we
              believe that NASA could have avoided the relatively high restoration
              costs’ through proper storage and maintenance.




               ’ SSSDC officials estimated that the center has spent about $250,000 to restore 8.760 tape\. at an
               average cost of $28 per tape. Simkrly, JPL restored 12,500 tapes at a cost of $495,000. or abwt S37
               per tape.



               Page 12                                        GAO/IMTJZC90-1     Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                                                                                                                                 .
                        Chapter 2
                        NASA’s Tape Management Practices      Place
                        Space Science Data at Risk




                        NASA’S   tapes containing space science data are stored in various NASA
NASA Has Not            and contractor facilities located at or near ~4s~ field centers, as well as
Performed an Agency-    at numerous other locations. In general, these data fall into two catego-
wide Inventory of Its   ries: (1) raw and intermediate data,’ and (2) data designated by scien-
                        tists and by NASA as a formal archival product.” Raw and intermediate
Space Science Data      data are stored in many places, including NASA, contract tape storage
Holdings                facilities, federal records centers, other federal agencies, universities,
                        and research institutions. NSSDCis iW3A'S principal facility responsible
                        for archiving and distributing archival data.

                        NASA   has not performed an agencywide inventory to determine the
                        amount, type, and location of data collected and retained on magnetic
                        tapes since it began space exploration in 1958. Moreover, because it does
                        not maintain a central listing of its tapes, many of the stored data can-
                        not be easily identified or retrieved. However, every facility we visited
                        maintained inventories and data directories of their own tape holdings
                        which varied in quality and completeness. For example, NSSDCmaintains
                        an automated inventory and catalog of all its tapes, while TSSF maintains
                        only a partial inventory, and JPL'S inventory of 130,000 tapes stored at
                        the Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel consisted of a listing of
                        stored boxes, without details of the contents. During the course of our
                        review, NAS.~ advised us that it recognized the need for a comprehensive,
                        agencywide inventory of these data and is planning to conduct a census
                        of its space science tapes. SASA is also developing a master directory
                        designed to provide electronic access to data catalogs. These and other
                        initiatives are discussed in more detail in chapter 3.

                        In the absence of an agencywide inventory or central listing of magnetic
                        tapes containing space science data, we relied on other sources of infor-
                        mation, including NASA documents and interviews with I~ASA and .JPL’
                        officials, to identify facilities managing and storing NASA'S tapes. Based

                        ‘The intermediate data Include the original data transmittedby the spacecraft, and certain processed
                        data, including ancillary information such as instrument calibration and spacecraft posrtion. SASA
                        provides these data to the scientists for their analysis.

                         ‘NASA identifies two types of archival data - the analyzed data records and the reduced data
                        records. The analyzed data records are ones which the scientist designates as the best to display the
                        scientific results of an experiment. The data are usually calibrated and may include only selected
                        observations. The reduced data records include data modified by the scientists to include correctrons
                        for temperature, voltage. spacecraft drift. and other factors. Roth types of data are produced by
                        scientists under contract to SASAto analyze data acquired by specific missions or instruments. After
                        completion of data analysis, the scientists create data sets for NASA archives.

                         ‘The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is managing magnetic tapes containing space science data from planc-
                        tary missions. Until late May 1989, the Laboratory was storing approximately 130,000 tapes at the
                        Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel, Califomra. These tapes are now stored at JPL.



                        Page 13                                         GAO/IMTECsO-1       Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                                            Chapter 2
                                            NASA’s Tape Management Practices      Place
                                            Space Science Data at Risk




                                            on this information, we identified the NASA facilities we believe to be
                                            managing the bulk of NASA’S data. Specifically, over 1.2 million magnetic
                                            tapes are managed or stored at NSSDC,    Goddard’s TSSF, JPL, and at the
                                            federal records centers in Washington, D.C., and Laguna Niguel, Califor-
                                            nia. Il’early 50,000 tapes were also stored by three university-based
                                            institutions and one federal data center. Although there could be more,
                                            these facilities collectively store or manage about 1.2 million NASA tapes.
                                            We visited every facility listed below:

Table 2.1: Selected Tape Processing   and
Storage Facilities Managing NASA            Facility                                             Location
                                                            .-__...
Space Science Data                          National Space Science
                                                               __-__. Data Center                Goddard, Greenbelt, Maryland
                                            Tape
                                            -      Staging and  Storage Facility                 Landover. Maryland
                                                                                                                 ___
                                            Los Angeles Federal Records Center                   Laguna Nlguel, California
                                            Washington National Records Center                   Washington, D.C.
                                            SmIthsonIan Astrophysical Observatory                Cambridge, Massachusetts
                                            Multi-missIon Image Processing                       JPL, Pasadena, California
                                            Data Protection Services                             Dominguez HIIIs, California          _.-~ .._~
                                            Infrared Processmg and Analysis Center               California lnstltute of Technology, Pasadena,
                                                                                                 California
                                            Center for Astrophysics   and Space Sciences         University of California, San Diego. La Jolla,
                                                                                                 California
                                            EROS Data Center                                     SIOUX Falls, South Dakota




                                            Poor management of magnetic tapes may cause partial or total loss of
The Federal                                 recorded data. Although a modern magnetic tape is sturdy and may last
Government and                              for up to 10 years, and research and empirical evidence have shown
Industry Prescribe                          that the magnetic signal may remain strong indefinitely, the tape itself
                                            will deteriorate unless properly maintained. (Appendix II discusses the
Tape Management                             characteristics of magnetic tapes.) Concerns in government and industry
Standards                                   about the preservation of magnetic tapes led NARA, MST,’ the Interna-
                                            tional Council on Archives, and the industry to develop comprehensive
                                            tape management standards. These standards fall into two groups: fed-
                                            eral regulations established by NAM;” and MST’ and industryh guidelines.

                                            ‘NIST conducts research and provides technical services designed to help federal agencies run their
                                            programs more cost effectively.

                                            “Code of Federal Regulations. Title 36, Part 1234.

                                            ‘Care and Handling of Computer Magnetic Media, NBS Special Publication 500-101, National Llureau
                                            of Standards, June 1983. (MS is now called MST.)

                                             “We contacted eight manufacturers of magnetic tapes or peripherals, one tape management consulr-
                                             ing firm, and the International Council on Archives, and obtained their tape management guidehncs.
                                                                             .


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                                 Together, they constitute a set of safeguards and practices that are
                                 designed to reduce the potential loss of valuable data stored on magnetic
                                 tapes.

                                 According to NST, losses of data stored on magnetic tapes stem from
                                 contamination and physical or chemical deterioration of tapes due to
                                 inadequate housekeeping techniques such as lack of cleanliness, inade-
                                 quate temperature and humidity control, the absence of tape mainte-
                                 nance, and improper tape handling. Data stored on damaged,
                                 contaminated, or deteriorated tapes can sometimes be partially or fully
                                 recovered through costly restoration and recovery procedures. Some
                                 data are completely lost.

                                 Because XGA had not adopted the federal regulations as agency policy
                                 or developed its own tape management guidelines, we developed a tape
                                 management checklist, based on federal regulations, and NET and indus-
                                 try guidelines, to assess each facility’s practice. (Appendix I has more
                                 information on how we performed this assessment.) Although these reg-
                                 ulations and guidelines cover many aspects of tape management, they
                                 focus on crucial factors in preserving magnetic tapes:


Covered by Federal       l       temperature and humidity control;
Regulations              l       proper preparation of archival tapes designed for long-term storage:
                         l       backup and storage of tapes containing valuable data at another
                                 location;
                         l       adequate security and internal controls to safeguard equipment: soft-
                                 ware, and tapes from theft, tampering, or destruction; and
                         l       quality control to detect deterioration of stored tapes.


Covered by Federal and   . clean environment and handling to prevent tape contamination and
Industry Guidelines        damage;
                           fire protection;
                             l


                         . water protection;
                           tape drive maintenance to eliminate hardware-related tape damage;
                             l


                           routine, scheduled tape maintenance program; and
                             l


                         0 tape transportation safeguards.




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                     Eight of the 10 tape storage and processing facilities we visited did not
Lack of Compliance   comply with at least 2 of the federal regulations established by SARA.
With Federal and     Further, 5 of these facilities, which store almost 500,000 of the 1.2 mil-
Industry Standards   lion tapes identified, did not comply with more than half the combined
                     federal regulations and industry tape management guidelines. These
                     facilities failed to meet such criteria as adequate temperature and
                     humidity control, fire protection, water protection, or tape maintenance.
                     In some instances, we found tapes stored in hallways, basements, and
                     dusty warehouses not designed for tape storage. More important, we
                     found some of the most significant tape management deficiencies in the
                     two largest facilities responsible for managing irreplaceable data -
                     NSSDCand TSSF. A good storage environment is possible. Two facilities we
                     visited-the     U.S Geological Survey’s EROS Data Center and the Digital
                      Equipment Corporation’s Data Protection Services-were in full or par-
                     tial compliance with most applicable federal regulations and industry
                      guidelines.

                     The following table lists individual regulations and guidelines and the
                     level of compliance we found during our review.!’ In noting the compli-
                     ance level, we assigned

                     a full compliance rating where total compliance with all regulations or
                     guidelines was observed or documented;
                     a partial compliance rating where the facility did not comply with one
                     or more regulations or guidelines;
                     a non-compliance rating where compliance with none of the regulations
                     or guidelines was observed or documented; and
                     a non-applicable rating where the facility was not responsible for cer-
                     tain aspects of tape management such as quality control.




                      “Subsequent to our visits. several facilities implemented or plan to implement various correctlve
                      actions. These actions are discussed in appendix 3.



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Figure 2.1: Compliance            With NARA’s and Industry Tape Management               Standards




      NARA Regulations                     $i#

                                     yg:              o
     Temperature       control

     Humldlty control                     -0-c        0

     Test’certify    media

     Off-slte backup                                                                                                                                  ...          NA

     Secunty

          Computer      room                                                                                         .:. :.:......::
                                                                                                                                 / ,i’                        ,,   NA
                                                                                                                     .:. :. ...
                                                                                                                      : ...... .:. j..
          Tape library                                                                                         A    “:F& 1;;“: A
                                                                                                                           .::.:..;
                                                                                                                         .::.:  .;,.
                                                                                                                         ,.,:::f:
     Sample 3% of tapes                                                                                                         ..I NA

     NIST and Industry
     Guidelines

     Tape handlmg                    10:              0         i                                                                         ...t               /     NA
                                                                                                                    .:,   ,.:, ,...:: .          :.         .:.
                                     : 5 8,’      :   o
     Fire protection

                                           .,g;       o        f
     Water protectlon

     Hardware       maintenance            i g        A        ;

                                     .’      f$   ;   A
     Tape maintenance

     Tape transportation                                                                                       0


                                                          0         Full compliance

                                                          A         Partlai compliance

                                                          ON         oncompllance

                                                          NA        Not applicable


/                                                                                                                                                                                               I


                                                               Most facility managers generally agreed with our findings, and in many
                                                               instances are planning to correct the deficiencies. Asked to name what,
                                                               in their opinion, caused these deficiencies, the managers listed: (1) lack
                                                               of knowledge about NARA tape management regulations, (2) budgetary
                                                               constraints and the high cost of complying with every regulation,
                                                                                       .

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                   (3) storage space limitations, (4) desire to maintain easy access to data
                   unhampered by stringent security and access control, and (5) a belief
                   that the various deficiencies had not caused an actual loss of stored
                   data. Appendix III presents their detailed responses to our findings,

                   The following section contains our summary assessment of how well the
                   10 facilities implemented procedures and safeguards related to the criti-
                   cal factors,


Temperature and    Only two facilities implemented adequate environmental controls. Eight
Humidity Control   facilities, including %?DC, TSSF, and two federal records centers, either
                   lacked temperature and humidity recorders, or stored tapes in areas
                   where recorders were not calibrated.

                   To avoid environmental damage, NAFW requires that the operating, stor-
                   age, and test area in tape processing and storage facilities be kept at 60
                   to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and between 40 to 50 percent humidity.
                   Extreme temperature and humidity levels or repeated temperature and
                   humidity changes cause permanent tape damage and loss of data.

                   Figure 2.2 shows a wall-mounted air conditioning unit discharging
                   refrigerated air directly on NASAtapes at one of the tape storage facili-
                   ties we visited.




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Figure 2.2: Tapes Stored Next to an Air Conditioning   Unit




Preparation of Archival                      Kane of the facilities we reviewed tested and certified all new tapes.
Tapes                                        SAIU requires that all tapes designated for permanent retention should
                                             be tested and certified no more than 6 months before they are used for
                                             longterm storage. This regulation is designed to assure the long-tflrm



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                              preservation of the recorded data by removing contaminants and ensur-
                              ing that the tape is free of manufacturing defects. Although most manu-
                              facturers test tapes before shipment, that does not guarantee a defect-
                              free tape. According to the NET, new tapes are sometimes contaminated
                              with debris, and so, unless tested and certified, they will eventually
                              become the source of errors when the data is written to or read from the
                              tape.


Off-Site Backup of Original   Only one facility, the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, which is
                              responsible for managing data acquired by the Infrared Astronomical
Tapes                         Satellite, provided for full backup of their original tapes.“’ NARArequires
                              that a duplicate of tapes containing valuable data be stored at an off-site
                              location. This regulation guarantees that a full set of tapes is available
                              should the originals be destroyed through vandalism, earthquake, flood,
                              or fire.

                              Other facilities provided on-site backup for some but not all their tapes.
                              Managers said full backup was too expensive.


Security and Internal         Four of the facilities did not control access to computer rooms and tape
Controls                      storage areas. Inadequate security and access control may result in
                              theft, tampering, or destruction of computer equipment, software, and
                              data.

                              The lack of security at NSSDCillustrates the need to secure valuable data.
                              For example, during an unannounced computer security check, God-
                              dard’s security report noted “the doors wide open... picked up tapes,
                              browsed through facility for several minutes.... no challenge ...
                              wandered around freely.“” The security officer noted that this was a
                              follow-up visit, and that the facility “may never start to correct” the
                              deficiency. Figure 2.3 illustrates the lack of security and tape manage-
                              ment controls we found at one facility, where a posted sign requests that
                              users “sign out” for all archival tapes removed from the often unat-
                              tended and unsecured tape library.

                               ‘“According to Center officials, the full set of Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) data-m&ding
                               raw data from the mission, intermediate data, and all archival data-is also stored overseas. In the
                               Netherlands, the data are archived at the University of Groningen and Sterrewach Huygens
                               Laboratorium at the I’niversity of Leiden. In the lrnited Kingdom, the archive facility is the IRAS
                               Post Mission Analysis Facility at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory A full set of archival data IS also
                               stored by NSSDC.

                               ’ ‘“l~nannounced Computer Security Check”. Goddard Space Flight Center, October 20. 1987



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Figure 2.3: Sign Reminding   Staff to Sign-Out for Archival   Tapes When the Tape Library Is Unattended




                                                The lack of security endangers valuable data, computer equipment, and
                                                software. In most instances, the effort and cost to correct the most sig-
                                                nificant deficiencies are minimal, and may require only a modest expen-
                                                diture for a card access lock for the computer room, or changes in
                                                facility operating procedures.



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Quality Control         Only one of six facilities responsible for the monitoring of their tapes
                        performed any quality control of stored tapes. SAIWrequires that each
                        federal facility storing magnetic tapes annually sample 3 percent of all
                        holdings to detect deterioration.

                        We agree that routine sampling and testing of stored tapes aids quality
                        control. However, on July 11, 1989, we asked SARA to reevaluate its
                        across-the-board 3 percent sampling regulation. Depending on the
                        number of tapes stored, we were concerned that a fixed 3 percent sam-
                        ple without regard to statistical considerations, such as the size of the
                        universe, could result in over or under-sampling, a potentially costly ot
                        risky practice. In September 1989, KARA officials informed us they were
                        revising their regulations to require an annual sample size that would
                        provide accurate results to within 5 percent at the 95 percent confidence
                        level. Statistics aside, five facilities were not performing this valuable
                        practice at all.


Clean Environment and   Three facilities either did not provide a clean environment for process-
                        ing and storing magnetic tapes, or did not handle them in a mannel
Tape Handling           designed to reduce tape contamination. Clean environment and tape
                        handling standards cover a broad range of recommendations ranging
                        from clean processing and tape storage areas to guidelines on the physi-
                        cal handling of tapes. Poor tape handling may cause tape contamination
                        or physical damage and the loss of recorded data. For example, tapes
                        may be contaminated through proximity to smoking, eating, and drink-
                        ing. Other sources of contamination are stored paper products, inappro-
                        priate janitorial techniques, or dust-producing equipment such as high
                        speed printers. Tapes may also be physically damaged by horizontal
                        stacking, rough handling, or heat produced by computers and other
                        equipment.

                        As shown in the following three figures, we found that several facilities
                        were storing NASAtapes in a manner and in an environment conducive to
                        damage. For example, Figure 2.4 shows one facility where we found
                        hundreds of tapes stacked in a dusty hallway, while Figure 2.5 notes
                        where we found over 4,000 tapes stored in a dirty basement srtb.jcct to
                        flooding. Finally, Figure 2.6 shows one facility where we found nc>arlJ
                        300,000 boxed tapes, stored on pallets: and strapped by steel bands. At
                        this location, we observed instances where the downward weight of the
                        tapes had warped the wooden pallets and the steel bands appcarcd to be
                        crushing the contents of the tape storage boxes.



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Figure 2.4: Tapes Temporarily   Stored in a Hallway




Fire Protection                                Eight facilities lacked adequate fire protection in their tape storage
                                               areas or were keeping combustible materials nearby. Two facilities had
                                               no smoke or heat detectors or automatic fire suppression systems. Eight
                                               had combustiblcl materials stored in tape vaults and computer rooms.



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                                         LInder NET guidelines, tape storage vaults should: (1) have fire and
                                         smoke detectors, (2) have a fire suppression system, (3) be designed
                                         with fire protection as a major consideration, and (4) be free of combus-
                                         tible materials.

Figure 2.5: Tapes Stored in a Basement




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Figur ‘e 2.6: Tapes Stored on Pallets
StraF bped With Steel Bands




                                         Figure 2.7 shows a ceiling-mounted electric heater installed next to a
                                         plywood wall discharging hot air directly on NASA tapes at one of the
                                         tape storage facilities we visited.


Water Protection                         SET  and industry guidelines recommend (1) the installation of floor-
                                         based water detectors, and (2) the availability of plastic sheets to pro-
                                         tect stored tapes from overhead leaks. Only one facility installed rvater
                                         detection devices in its tape storage area, and only three facilities had
                                         plastic sheets on hand to cover tape racks in case of a leak. Undetected
                                         water leaks or flooding significantly damage magnetic tapes unless they
                                         are promptly treated. For example, because of lack of funding and a
                                         shortage of tape storage space, one facility is storing 4,000 tapes in a
                                         sub-basement which was flooded in 1985. Figure 2.8 shows a portion of
                                         these tapes that were about half submerged during the flooding. Con-
                                         taminants and debris left a clearly visible water line on the tapes. In
                                         another instance, a roof-based air conditioning unit leaked on boscs
                                         stored near SASAtapes. as shown in figure 2.9.




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Fig1we 2.7: Electric Heater in Close
Pro ximity to Stored Tapes




                                       Page 26                                    GAO/IMTECSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
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Figure 2.8: Tapes Likely Damaged   by Flooding




                                                                       .


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Tape Drive Maintenance     Two facilities did not adequately maintain their tape drives. Poorly
                           maintained drives may cause immediate or delayed tape and data dam-
                           age. NET and industry guidelines recommend a scheduled hardware
                           maintenance program that includes the frequent cleaning of tape write/
                           read heads and the removal of accumulated debris in the tape transport
                           components. Other maintenance care should be focused on the periodic
                           demagnetization of these heads, and the alignment and lubrication of
                           tape drive components.


Routine Tape Maintenance   None of the facilities adequately maintained their tapes. Scheduled
                           maintenance of tapes is critical! especially for tapes stored in vaults
                           with poor environmental controls. In general, MST suggests that tapes be
                           periodically cleaned, rewound, and, if required, copied.


Tape Transpor #tation      Only one facility protected its tapes in transit. According to NET, such
                           tapes should receive special care, including packing and transportation
Safeguards                 in climate-controlled vehicles. Transportation hazards include excessive
                           vibration, exposure to contaminants and stray magnetic fields, and
                           extreme and uncontrolled temperature and humidity changes.


                           We visited two tape storage facilities with reputations for excellence in
A Good Storage             tape storage practices-the   Digital Equipment Corporation’s Data Pro-
Environment Is             tection Services, a commercial tape storage facility in Dominguez Hills,
Achievable                 California, and the EROS Data Center, a federal facility in Sioux Falls,
                           South Dakota.

                            The Dominguez Hills Data Protection Services provided tape archival
                            and storage services to government agencies and to the private sector.
                            The facility was under contract to JPL to store over 15,000 tapes. We
                            found that its tape library fully met federal regulations and industry
                            storage environment guidelines. Since our visit, the Dominguez Hills
                            facility closed, and the laboratory transferred its tapes to another com-
                            mercial facility in February 1989.

                            The US Geological Survey’s EROS Data Center is responsible for
                            processing, analyzing, archiving, and distributing remote land-sensing
                            images acquired by the Landsat satellites and other remote land-sensing
                            instruments flown on NASA and the Kational Oceanic and Atmospheric
                            Administration’s missions. The center manages over 117,000 tapes. We
                            found the center’s tape library, as shown in figure 2.10, to be in full or


                            Page 29                                   GAO/IMTEGSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
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Figure 2.10: EROS Data Center Tape Storage    Vault




                                              Page 30                                       GAO: IMTEC-90-l   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
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                      partial compliance with most of the applicable federal regulations
                      and industry guidelines. It clearly demonstrates that a good tape
                      storage environment is achievable.


                      Recognizing that many of its tapes are deteriorating, SASA has taken
NASA’s Data           steps to restore or preserve selected tapes held at NSSDCand JPL. Given
Restoration Efforts   limited resources, SASA does not plan to restore the hundreds of
                      thousands of un-inventoried aging tapes stored in other NASA facilities,
                      universities, and research institutions,


JPL’s Restoration     Concerned about the potential deterioration of its magnetic tapes, JPL
                      restored approximately 12,500 tapes containing over 130,000 digital
Programs              images from the Voyager, Viking, and Mariner 9 and 10 missions. These
                      tapes had been stored at the Federal Records Center at Laguna Miguel
                      and elsewhere.

                      According to the manager, this generally successful restoration! which
                      cost $495,000 and took from 1983 to 1984, revealed that the attempt to
                      restore tapes over 10 years old can often destroy them. Once the mag-
                      netic oxide coating has deteriorated, the tapes can be read only once,
                      because reading recorded data strips their magnetic oxide layer. Thus, if
                      the first reading was unsuccessful, the project could not recover the
                      stored data on subsequent readings.

                      In July 1986, the laboratory sent a team to inspect its 130,000 remaining
                      tapes stored at the Federal Record Center in Laguna Miguel and to
                      assess possible damage caused by an earthquake. The team found that
                      several shelves holding the laboratory’s tapes received severe shaking
                      and that several boxes containing tapes had fallen from the top shelves.
                      Many sections of the acoustic ceiling had also been shaken loose. The
                      team noted that “... the dust created by the falling sections into the
                      boxes has surely contaminated the tapes at this point.“12 This contami-
                      nation could have been significantly reduced if JPL had shipped its tapes
                      in sealed boxes. We observed a high proportion of the laboratory’s tapes
                      stored in unsealed or partially open boxes.

                       In briefing JPL'S Associate Directors, the staff noted that the labora-
                       tory’s tapes were stored in substandard facilities and without disaster
                       recovery backup or procedures to assure proper management of its

                       “JPL Interoffice Memorandum - Federal Archives Earthquake Damage, July 14, 1986.



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tapes. The staff recommended that the laboratory develop a policy for
protecting, handling, and storing magnetic tapes and suggested that a
new facility be found to store the more than 130,000 tapes being stored
at the center. In a letter dated December 4, 1986, the center’s direct01
underscored the need for prompt action:

“Our record center does not have an environmentally controlled storage conducive
to the safe maintenance of computer magnetic tapes... You may store your magnetic
tapes at this facility but we cannot guarantee the safe maintenance of YOUI
records.“‘,’

In December 1986, the laboratory began planning how to deal with these
tapes. In discussing the potential preservation tasks, the staff noted:

“JPL ALDs (Associate Laboratory Directors) have recently been made aware of the
deplorable conditions under which JPL data and data tapes are maintained in the
Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel. Their concern has prompted JPL to seek
storage for data tapes under better conditions, but the costs are prohibitive. like a
dollar a tape a month, for the large number of data tapes currently being
‘archived’.“14

According to the project manager’s estimate, probably half the 130,000
tapes stored at the center were either damaged or degraded beyond res-
toration or contain data no longer worth keeping. Tapes more than 10
years old were at risk? and the project would not be able to recover
between 20-25 percent of them.

In April 1989, the laboratory initiated a project designed to remove and
restore all tapes containing valuable data stored at the Federal Records
Center in Laguna Niguel. The 5-year, $1.8 millon project is to be imple-
mented in two phases. During the first phase, the laboratory was to
remove, in stages, the 130,000 tapes stored at the center. These tapes
are to be evaluated for data identification, tape and data condition, and
the value of data. According to the project staff, this phase will take
about 2 years to complete. During the second phase, tapes containing
data identified as valuable are to be copied to new tapes. This phase is
planned to be completed in 1994.

 However, in its May 1989 letter to JPL, the Federal Records Center in
 Laguna Niguel noted that it cannot adequately store magnetic tapes, and

 ‘.‘Letter from the FederalRecordsCenterin LagunaNiguel to JPL, December4. 1986.
 ““JPL Planetary Data RestorationTask PlanningMeeting,”JPL memorandum,December 8. 198ti
 (emphasis added).



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                           t,hat it would ship them to another federal record center better equipped
                           to store them. In late May 1989, .JPL moved all its tapes from Laguna
                           Niguel to its facilities and started implementing the project’s first phase.


NSSDC Data Restoration     In June 1988, NSSDCbegan a program designed to restore about 30,000
                           tapes, many which are over 10 years old and deteriorating. The NSSDC
Project                    restoration project is restoring about 10,000 tapes annually. According
                           to SSDC officials, as of September 1989, the Center successfully restored
                           over 8,700 tapes at a cost of about $250,000. This cost includes labor,
                           new tapes, a new tape drive, and software. According to NSSDCofficials,
                           this restoration succeeded because most of the restored tapes were the
                           relatively newer, high-density kind produced in the 1970s. But project
                           staff noted that, although all data were restored, some tapes had so
                           deteriorated that data extraction required several attempts, and the
                           staff often had to recover lost data segments from backup tapes. For
                           example, to restore data from an early mission, the restoration project
                           staff had to hand clean over 200 degraded tapes. As the MSDC begins to
                            restore the older, low-density tapes, more problems will be encountered.


Some Stored Tapes May      NASA and some scientific institutions may be spending limited resources
Contain Data of Marginal   to store thousands of tapes containing data without appreciable scien-
                           tific value. These tapes may contain data that (1) were superseded by
Value                      similar data with higher precision or resolution, (2) are poorly docu-
                           mented and cannot be interpreted, (3) are of questionable quality and
                           completeness, and (4) are stored on deteriorated tapes and cannot be
                           fully recovered. For example, JPL officials estimated that about half
                           their 130,000 tapes formerly stored at the Federal Records Center in
                           Laguna Miguel are damaged beyond recovery or contain data of little
                           scientific value. The question of data value also applies to NASA’S fat-ma1
                           archival data sets maintained by NSSDC    on over 113,000 tapes. In 1983, a
                           group of scientists participating in a planetary data workshop noted
                           that:

                            “The opinion that the current NSSDC is inadequate for curation, access, and distri-
                            bution of planetary data is prevalent among users and data providers. Data
                            archived there are of variable quality, some data sets have questionable accuracy.
                            others are incomplete or have much lower temporal and spatial resolution than the
                            original instrument data. Little processing history is provided with the data, and
                            engineering information (when available) is supplied in hardcopy.“”

                            “Trends in Planetary Data Analysis, ExecutiveSummaryof the Planetary DataWorkshop.SXSA
                            ConferencePublication 2333. 1984,~.5.



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                            K&A has taken steps to strengthen its archiving of planetary data
                            through its Planetary Data System. Iti However, according to its manager,
                            the system currently incorporates only a fraction of these data. The sys-
                            tem is currently restoring data from past planetary missions, and even-
                            tually plans to incorporate most of these data in its data base. However,
                            the system manager noted that there is no schedule for the completion
                            of this effort, and that its completion is dependent on the resources S.XM
                            allocates to this task. If the conditions noted above also apply to data
                            from other scientific disciplines, their value may also be questioned.


Chronic Problems in         An earlier GAO review and scientific advisory group reports noted
                            chronic problems in KA~A’S data archiving practices and expressed con-
NASA’s Archiving of Space   cerns regarding the long-term preservation of data. In our 1977 report.
Science Data Have Been      we found that the acquired data was not archived in a timely manner,
Noted Before                and that NASA was not enforcing its regulations concerning the archiving
                            of data prepared by Principal Investigators.li In a 1982 report,‘” CODMK
                            noted that:

                        . data system and data analysis, including data archiving, were not ade-
                          quately funded;
                        . data archives generally contained insufficient or inaccurate information
                          about the archived data;
                        l
                          data management responsibilities for both during and/or post mission
                          phases were not clearly identified;
                        . archived data were often destroyed without consultation with the scien-
                          tific community; and
                        . in some cases data acquired from past missions have not been properly
                          archived.




                            ‘“This JPLbased advanced data management and archiving system wili consist of five or more elec-
                            tronically connected nodes responsible for processing, archiving, and disseminating data from past
                            and future planetary missions. Using optical data storage technology, it is producing two Compact
                            Disk Read Only Memory (CDROM) disks containing 4,990 Voyager images of Saturn and three disks
                            containing 6,990 Jupiter images. NASA established the system in response to scientists’ call for the
                            development of a distributed data management and archival system operated and maintained by
                            scientists.

                            “More Emphasis Needed On Data Analysis Phase of Space Science Programs (PSAD-77-114, .June
                            27, 1977).

                            ‘kData Management and Computation, Volume 1: Issues and Recommendations, Committee on Data
                            Management and Computation, Space Science Board, Assembly of Mathematical and Physical Sci-
                            ences, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1982, pp. 2-4.
                                                         .


                            Page 34                                         GAO/IMTEC90-1      Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 2
NASA’s Tape Management     Practices   Place
Space Science Data at Risk




Similarly, in its most recent report, CODMAC recommended that NASA
should develop procedures to protect its data archives from deteriora-
tion of media, hardware failures, and tampering by individuals.“’




‘%lected Issues in Space Science Data Management and Computation. Committee on Data Manage-
ment and Computation, Space Science Board, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematiw and
Resources, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.. 1988. p 7



Page 35                                        GAO/IMTEC-SO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 3

DeficienciesExist in NASA’s Oversight and                                                                       .
Managementof Tape Arehiving and
StorageActivities
                     NASA’S magnetic tapes are neglected. As discussed in chapter 2, facilities
                     storing MSA’S tapes are not complying with tape management standards
                     and are failing to ensure that magnetic tapes containing valuable data
                     are adequately preserved.

                     During the past three decades, NASA did not give adequate attention to
                     the archiving and storage of its space science data. At best, NASA
                     addressed the growing volumes of stored data and related tape storage
                     and archival problems in a piecemeal fashion, and in general, has not
                     acted on many recommendations put forward by CODMACand other sci-
                     entific advisory groups.

                     We attribute these deficiencies to a lack of (1) management attention
                     and participation in tape management and storage activities, (2) over-
                     sight by NASA’S information resources management officials and respon-
                     sible federal agencies, and (3) adequate funding for tape storage and
                     archiving.


                     In the past, NASA viewed data management and data archiving as a low
Data Management Is   visibility, low priority activity. Traditionally, the planning, develop-
Treated as a Low     ment, and management of new missions consumed the bulk of NASA’S
Priority Activity    resources; the storage and archival of data acquired by past missions
                     was given only scant attention and meager resources. A recent CODMAC
                     report also addressed this issue:

                     “While the collection of data from   space attracts much interest, the more mundane
                     issues of handling, managing, and    disseminating these data are given less than ade-
                     quate attention. The accumulation     of data continues as do the data management
                     problems with the loss of valuable    data and with the difficulty of providing access
                     to the data.“’

                     NASA’S Office of Space Science and Applications, which has overall
                     responsibility for managing NASA’S space science data, did not ade-
                     quately lead and manage projects, field centers, and facilities managing,
                     storing, and archiving data. We believe this lack of attention to data
                     management issues is partially responsible for the poorly defined man-
                     agement structure, which was noted in a 1986 CODMACreport. The report
                     notes that NASA’S data management is fragmented and poorly coordi-
                     nated, and recommends that:



                     ’ Ibid., pp. 6-7.



                     Page 36                                    GAO/LMTEC9@1    Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                             Chapter 3
                             Deficiencies   Exist in NASA’s Oversight   and
                             Management of Tape Archiving and
                             Storage Activities




                             “There should be explicit, clearly understood assignment within NASA of responsi-
                             bilities for computation and data management functions to specific offices and indi-
                             viduals. Since the overall responsibility for the effectiveness and productivity of
                             the science and applications programs rests with the Associate Administrator for
                             Space Science and Applications, that individual should take lead in ensuring that
                             the various functions are clearly defined, and that responsibilities are unambigu-
                             ously assigned as necessary to accomplish this task.“’


                             NARA and GSA are responsible for periodic inspections of record and tape
Lack of Management           management practices of federal agencies.:’ Moreover, NASA’S Informa-
Oversight                    tion Resources Management (IRM) official is also responsible for ensuring
                             that all facilities comply with NARA’S regulations. However, we found
                             that NASA’S management of data has not been reviewed by either NARA or
                             GSA, nor has it been reviewed by the Assistant Associate Administrator
                             for IRM, NASA’S Office of Management. Further, neither NARA, GSA, nor
                             NASA'S IRM officials have recently inspected or reviewed NASA’S tape stor-
                             age facilities or reviewed NASA’S tape management and storage practices.


NASA’s IRM Office Has        NASA’S Assistant Associate Administrator for Information Resources
Not Provided Adequate        Management, as the designated senior IRM official, is responsible for
                             establishing agency policies for managing information processing
Oversight of Space Science   resources and ensuring agency compliance with the applicable laws and
Data Management              regulations. KASA'S IRM office is also responsible for oversight reviews of
                             NASA’S field centers, offices, and projects to determine compliance with
                             mandatory information processing regulations, directives, and stan-
                             dards. Despite these responsibilities, the IRM office has not overseen
                             NASA’S management of its data holdings, because, according to the Direc-
                             tor of NASA'S IRM Policy division, the records management function was
                             transferred to this office less than 4 years ago, in May 1986.




                             ‘Issues and Recommendations AssociatedWith Distributed Computationand Data ManagementSys-
                             tems for the SpaceSciences,Committeeon Data Managementand Computation,SpaceScienceBoard,
                             Commissionon Physical Sciences,Mathematics,and Resources,National ResearchCouncil. National
                             AcademyPress,Washington,DC., 1986,p. 105.
                             “Under section2904of Title 44, United StatesCode,NARAand GSAmust overseerecordsmanage-
                             ment programsoperatedby federal agencies.



                              Page 37                                         GAO/lMTEG90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                              Chapter 3
                              Deficiencies   Exist in NASA’s Oversight   and
                              Management of Tape Archiving and
                              Storage Activities




NARA Has Not Reviewed         NARAis responsible for the inspection and evaluation of agency records
                              management programs. The objective9 of NARA’S inspections are to:
NASA’s Records
Management Activities     l determine agency compliance with NARA’S records management regula-
                            tions; and
                          . evaluate the effectiveness of agency records management programs and
                            practices relating to adequacy of documentation, maintenance and use,
                            and records disposition.

                              NARA   has never inspected NASA’S records management program. Accord-
                              ing to the Assistant Archivist for Management and Administration, NAKA
                              lacks the resources to perform more than two reviews annually. How-
                              ever, a NARA representative told us they worked in other ways with NASA
                              regarding their records’ management activities. For example, it is evalu-
                              ating a revision to NASA’S records disposition schedule. In addition, sev-
                              eral years ago NARA established a task force to develop appraisal criteria
                              for NASA’S records. The task force visited five facilities and three federal
                              records centers, reviewed seven space science projects, and issued a
                              report summarizing its findings.’ Although the report addressed several
                              records management issues, it did not address NASA’S compliance with
                              federal tape management regulations, nor did it identify the deficiencies
                               in tape management and storage practices that we found during our
                               review.


GSA Oversight of NASA’s        GSA is responsible for inspecting and evaluating agency record manage-
Record Management and          ment programs.” These inspections should ensure that every agency
                               complies with NARA and GSA regulations, and that each economically and
IRM Activities Is              effectively manages its records.
Inadequate
                               GSA did not perform the mandated reviews of NASA’S tape management
                               practices nor did it review its IRM activities. According to the Deputy
                               Director of NASA'S IRM Policy Division, GSA has never reviewed NASA'S IRM
                               or records management and tape storage activities, such as visiting tape
                               storage facilities to ensure their compliance with applicable tape man-
                               agement standards. Although officials from GSA'S Office of Information
                               Resource Management could not explain GSA’S failure, they said it is

                               ‘Code of Federal Regulations. Title 36, Subpart C - Agency Program Evaluation. Paragraph 1220.50,
                               Evaluation by NARA.

                               ‘Saving the Right Stuff, NARA, August 1985

                               “Code of Federal Regulations, Title 41, Chapter 201, Part 201-22, Records Management Program. Par-
                               agraph 201-22.001-4, GSA Responsibilities.



                               Page 38                                         GAO/IMTEC90-1    Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                     Chapter 3
                     Deficiencies   Exist in NASA’s Oversight   and
                     Management of Tape Archiving and
                     Storage Activities




                     planning to strengthen its oversight and schedule agency reviews every
                     3 years. They also told us that GSA will, in January-March 1990, review
                     NASA'S information resources acquisition practices, and that the review-
                     ers will be informed of our findings.


                     The vast majority of funding for data storage is done on a mission-by-
Inadequate Funding   mission basis. Each mission is funded in two phases: (1) mission devel-
for Data Archiving   opment and (2) mission operations and data analysis. The mission oper-
                     ations and data analysis phase includes funding for data processing,
                     analysis, and storage. NASA and JPL officials told us that KA.SA usually
                     underfunds the second phase and often uses those funds to cover first
                     phase overruns. In addition, second phase funding for data storage
                     assumes that most raw and intermediate data will be destroyed after it
                     is processed, as required by NASA’Sregulations. However, organizations
                     or scientists responsible for data are reluctant to destroy data they
                     believe are potentially valuable. Instead, they store them in substandard
                     conditions.

                     In addition to the mission-specific funding of data analysis and storage,
                     NASA also funds I%SDC’Slong-term data storage and archiving. NSLX,
                     which is responsible for archiving data from all NASA'S space science
                     missions, and from selected NOAA, Department of Defense and interna-
                     tional missions, had a 1989 budget of $3.2 million. This amount includes
                     all its principal activities: data acquisition, processing, archiving, and
                     distribution.

                     According to NASA and JPL officials in data management and archiving,
                     data archiving and storage are often underfunded. CODMACconcurred
                     and recommended that NASA establish a budget providing balanced sup-
                     port not only for instrument development, flight support, and immediate
                     post-launch data handling, but also “... for the information processing,
                     exchange, analysis, archiving, and other related activities.“i

                     In effect, the report noted that NASA should allocate additional resources
                     to manage and archive space science data so that these resources are
                     commensurate with those for the development, launch, and operation of
                     space science missions.


                     ‘Issues and Recommendations Associated With Distributed Computation and Data Management Sys-
                     tems for the Space Sciences, Committee on Data Management and Computation, Space Science Board,
                     Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources, National Research Council, National
                     Academy Press, Washington, D.C.. 1986. p. 104.



                      Page 39                                         GAO/IMTEC90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                           chapter 3
                           Deficiencies   Exist in NASA’s Oversight   and
                           Management of Tape Archiving and
                           Storage Activities




                           A NASA official responsible for the planning and coordinating the data
                           management and archiving told us that although NASA needs more
                           resources, including funds and personnel, it must also balance these
                           requirements against available resources and the needs of other
                           programs.


                           NASA recognizes that a significant effort will be required to correct
NASA’s Efforts to          existing data management problems. Besides the data restoration
Strengthen Its Data        projects discussed in chapter 2, it is taking several steps to correct
Management                 existing problems and to prepare for the data expected to be generated
                           by its future missions. These steps include

                       l   establishing a task force to reassess NASA'S management of data;
                       l   using optical disk technology to archive selected data;
                       l   developing a Master Data Directory with information on the location of
                           data with significant scientific value; and
                       l   initiating a census of space science data stored at JPL and Goddard.


Data Management Task       To strengthen data management and oversight and to develop a coher-
Force                      ent data management plan, the Office of Space Science and Applications
                           and the Office of Space Operations established a joint task force in July
                           1988 to identify data management problems and prepare an information
                           systems management plan by November 1989. The scope of the task
                           force’s charge includes the evaluation of:

                           “... full range of activities required to accomplish first-class scientific research...
                           areas to be addressed are, flight data systems; experiment operations, including
                           planning, scheduling and control; computer networking; computational systems; and
                           data archival.”

                           The task force’s products are to include cost scenarios for different data
                           management options, a draft of a new NASA data management policy,
                           and an information system strategic plan. We met with task force staff
                           and discussed the task force’s activities and plans. Because they had not
                           yet completed their work, it was too early to assess how the task force
                           will influence NASA'S management of its past and future data holdings.




                            Page 40                                         GAO/IMTEG90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space   Data
                      Chapter 3
                      Deficiencies   Exist in NASA’s Oversight   and
                      Management of Tape Archiving and
                      Storage Activities




Use of Optical Disk   NASA is experimenting  with advanced data storage technology and has
                      established several projects using optical disks to store selected data.
Technology            For example, at Goddard, one project is converting 10,000 tapes contain-
                      ing data from the Dynamic Explorer I and II to 243 optical disks, while
                      another project implemented by NSSDCis using optical disks to store
                      selected archival data. Similarly, JPL is using optical disks to store and
                      disseminate planetary images obtained by NASA'S deep space missions.
                      While optical disk technology may offer improvements in KASA'S data
                      storage, archival, and dissemination, it is too early to assess its overall
                      impact.


NASA’s Master Data    NSSDCis developing a NASA Master Directory, an on-line data search sys-
                      tern designed to link users with existing data systems implemented by
Directory             NASA and other federal agencies. In some cases, the directory provides an
                      automatic network connection to data catalogs or information systems
                      where more detailed information about data of interest may be found.
                      According to NSSDC,the user may search for data by categories of inter-
                      est such as science discipline, instrument, missions, or spatial coverage.
                      The information displayed by the directory includes a descriptive title,
                      summary abstract, key references, persons to contact, and storage
                      media information.

                      Although the Master Directory is limited to data catalogs and data
                      descriptions provided by the existing systems, other data of interest are
                      being identified. NSSDCis planning to hire several scientists to identify
                      additional data of significant scientific interest. According to its mana-
                      ger, the Directory project does not have the resources to identify all
                      existing data of potential interest or their location. To obtain detailed
                      information about the extent of all its data, NASA would have to perform
                      a full-scale, comprehensive inventory and assessment of its data
                      holdings.


Data Census           In August 1989, the Communications Division of the Office of Space Sci-
                      ence and Applications initiated a NASA-wide census of data. Its purpose
                      is to identify all NASA’S data sets and thus to develop a “comprehensive
                      picture of just what constitutes the NASA data base.” The project is
                      closely related to other activities, including tape restoration and the
                      development of an archiving cost model. NASA is also planning to use the
                      census information as input to its Master Directory project. Although
                      the stated goal of the project is to inventory all NASA tape holdings, the
                      first phase of the data census is limited to tape holdings maintained by


                       Page 41                                         GAO/IbiTECXlO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 3
Deficiencies   Exist in NASA’s Oversight   and
Management of Tape Archiving and
Storage Activities




JPL and by Goddard. Because the project staff had not completed plan-
ning at the time of our review, it was too early for us to determine
whether this effort will produce a comprehensive inventory of all ICASA'S
data stored by NASA'S centers, contract facilities, universities, individual
scientists, and other federal agencies.




 Page 42                                         GAO/IMTEG90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 4

Conelusionsand Recommendations


              NASA'S management of data acquired by past space research and explo-
Conclusions   ration missions is plagued by serious problems, with hundreds of
              thousands of magnetic tapes with long-term scientific value improperly
              stored and inadequately maintained. Valuable data from past missions
              are stored on deteriorating magnetic tapes and some irreplaceable data
              sets may have been lost. Since NASA does not have an agencywide inven-
              tory of its data, it does not know what is being retained and where it is
              located.

              Data management and data archiving have received little attention from
              NASA officials responsible for the management of the nation’s space
              research and exploration. In the past, IGASAresponded to needs of the
              scientific community to push the frontiers of space exploration by
              emphasizing new missions designed to carry advanced instruments into
              Earth orbit and to other planets of our solar system. While this empha-
              sis dramatically expanded scientific knowledge and ensured that the
              I Jnited States established and maintained its pioneering role in many
              important aspects of space exploration, we believe that this success was
              partially achieved at the expense of preserving NASA'S data holdings
              acquired by past missions.

              The potential scientific value of these data holdings is unquestionable,
              and NASA has started to take steps to preserve some of its existing data
              holdings and is evaluating its data management structures and activi-
              ties. However, NASA should do more.

              First, NASA'S data management and archival activities have to be ele-
              vated to a position of importance equal to that held by mission develop-
              ment and operations. Second, given NASA'S decentralized structure and
              its decentralized management of its space science missions, a focused
              organizational structure is needed with clearly defined authority and
              responsibility. Third, NASA must determine the amount, location, and sci-
              entific value of its data. Without an agencywide inventory, NASA cannot
              adequately plan or budget for space science data management. Fourth,
              all valuable data should be made readily accessible to scientists either
              through a central data directory or by other means. Finally, NASA needs
              to allocate adequate funds and staff to data archiving to ensure that its
              data are adequately maintained and stored.

              These steps will require considerable effort, different funding priorities,
              and a dramatic change in NASA'S mission-oriented culture, which empha-
              sizes development, launch, and operation of spacecraft and views data
              management as a low priority activity. Without a major effort to


              Page 43                             GAO/IMTEG90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                                 Chapter 4
                                 Conclusions   and Recommendations




                                 strengthen the management and archiving of KASA’S data, and the alloca-
                                 tion of necessary resources, valuable data will be lost. Furthermore, if
                                 NASA does not take the required steps to correct the existing deficiencies
                                 in its data management and archival operations, several of which have
                                 been known for the past decade, future missions will also be placed at
                                 risk, particularly if they rely on magnetic tapes as a primary data stor-
                                 age medium.

                                 Clearly NASA must accept the major responsibility for the deplorable con-
                                 ditions under which scientific data are stored and maintained. Two
                                 organizations, KAR..Aand GSA, have also not met their oversight responsi-
                                 bilities which, if properly exercised, could have brought the necessary
                                 attention and focus to have prevented or mitigated these problems.



Recommendations

Recommendations to the           We recommend that the Administrator      instruct NASA officials responsi-
NASA Administrator               ble for the management of data to:

                         l       conduct a thorough inventory of all NASA'S space science data stored at
                                 NASA centers and contractors, universities, research institutions, and
                                 other federal agencies;
                         l       assess, in cooperation with the scientific community, the inventoried
                                 data for its scientific value and the integrity of its storage media;
                         l       copy valuable data from deteriorating tapes to archival quality mag-
                                 netic tapes or other storage media suitable for long-term retention of
                                 digital data, and release unneeded tapes for reuse or disposal;
                         l       archive valuable scientific data in facilities that meet NARA regulations;
                         l       develop and implement agencywide tape management and maintenance
                                 standards which include all NARA regulations and appropriate NET
                                 guidelines;
                         l       ensure that the offices and officials responsible for managing space sci-
                                 ence data are identified and their responsibilities clearly defined;
                             l   ensure that NASA officials responsible for overseeing NASA'S IRM periodi-
                                 cally review NASA'S data management and archiving to ensure compli-
                                 ance with KARA regulations; and
                             l   ensure that NASA'S data management and archiving are allocated ade-
                                 quate resources to properly store and maintain NASA'S space science data
                                 holdings.

                                                                .

                                  Page 44                            GAO/KMTEG90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                          Chapter 4
                          Conclusions   and Recommendations




Recommendation to the     We recommend that the Administrator periodically review and inspect
                          NASA'S records management practices as required by the Federal Infor-
GSA Administrator         mation Resources Management Regulations.


Recommendation to the     We recommend that the Archivist periodically inspect and review NASA’S
Archivist of the United   records documentation and disposition practices as required by
                          regulations.
States

Agency Comments and Our   Commenting on a draft of our report, NASA contended it was safeguard-
Evaluation                ing space science data as a national resource for future generations, but
                          recognized room for improvement. It said it was addressing GAO'S recom-
                          mendations in ongoing or planned programs. Several of NASA'S ongoing
                          programs, including tape inventory and data restoration, are discussed
                          in our report. Although these activities have been limited, NASA repre-
                          sentatives told us they would be expanded in the future. Because NASA'S
                          detailed plans for implementing our other recommendations were still
                          evolving when we finished our work, they could not be evaluated.

                          X+&A expressed concerns that our report, while addressing what it
                          termed “certain shortcomings in magnetic tape management,” did not
                          present a fair and balanced description of its efforts to manage space
                          science data in a broader context. We disagree. As stated on page 48, our
                          work focused on determining if NASA was adequately managing and
                          archiving data from its past missions, which is now stored on magnetic
                          tapes. In addition to fairly describing, and in most cases photographing,
                          the conditions observed at 10 locations, we mentioned a number of
                          instances where NASA is taking positive steps to address certain aspects
                          of the tape storage and management problems (see pp. 31-33 and 40-42).

                           NA~A also stated the report’s tone was unnecessarily harsh, and that it
                           contained sweeping generalizations that were unfounded and unsub-
                           stantiated. We disagree. Contrary to NASA'S contentions, we believe our
                           report fairly describes NASA'S management of space science data hold-
                           ings from past missions. Further, we think the seriously flawed condi-
                           tions under which hundreds of thousands of tapes from past missions
                           are stored, combined with the low priority accorded this important
                           activity, unquestionably substantiate our conclusions and recommenda-
                           tions. Unless NASA addresses the serious tape management and storage
                           problems noted, data from past missions will in fact be lost to future




                           Page 45                            GAO/IMTECSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Chapter 4
Conclusions   and Recommendations




generations. NASA'S letter and our evaluation of the comments it made on
a draft of the executive summary are in appendix IV.

GSA and NARA also commented on our report. GSA reported it had
strengthened its management oversight function and planned to conduct
a review of NASAin early 1990. (See app. V.) MRA concurred that data
management was a low priority in &MA, and believed this applied to
records management as well. NARAbelieves that while USA records man-
agers are aware of tape management regulations, they have not been
effectively communicated to NASAprogram managers. KARA supported
our recommendation that PI‘ASAconduct an inventory of its data tapes,
but stated that in the past NASAhad refused to do so. SARA said it had
not inspected NASA because of the massiveness of the undertaking,
requirements in other areas, and an expectation that records manage-
ment activities would improve based on other working relationships
established during the past 5 years. NARAagreed, however, to consider
inspecting NASA, but not before fiscal year 1991. NAR4 also made several
comments about the way we rated its storage facilities. NARA'S letter and
our evaluation of its comments are in appendix VI.




  Page 46                           GAO/EWTJ3G9O-1 Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
          .


Page 47       GAO/LMTEGSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix I

Objectives,Scope,and Methodology


              On November 10, 1988, the House Committee on Science, Space, and
              Technology asked us to report on whether NASA is (1) adequately manag-
              ing and archiving space science data from its past missions stored on
              magnetic tapes, and (2) whether a mechanism exists for obtaining input
              from the scientific community on what types of space science data
              should be preserved and archived. This report addresses the first ques-
              tion; a subsequent report will address the second.

              To answer the first question, we:

              identified federal and private sector tape management regulations and
              guidelines and developed a tape management checklist to review USA'S
              tape storage practices based on 11 factors developed from NARA regula-
              tions, and NST and private sector guidelines;
              reviewed NASA'S policies and guidelines governing the management of
              data;
              reviewed reports and documents related to the management of data,
              including reports prepared by NASA, CODMAC, and various scientific
              groups and committees;
              interviewed NASA and JPL officials responsible for managing ~4~~4's data;
              interviewed NARA and GSA officials responsible for overseeing x~s.4'~
               data management;
               identified and reviewed tape management practices at 10 data process-
               ing and storage facilities using a tape management checklist (see table
               2.1); and
               discussed NAsA'S tape management practices with GSA and NAFW officials.

              We used iXAFL4regulations and NIST guidelines as the primary guide in
              developing our tape management checklist. We supplemented our check-
              list with guidance provided by major manufacturers of magnetic com-
              puter tapes, as well as the International Council on Archives.

              To determine the extent to which each facility complied with the regula-
              tions and guidelines, we:

              used our checklist to discuss, observe, and document the conditions
              found at each location, always in the presence of facility
              representatives;
              photographed examples of the conditions noted or used photographs
              provided by the facility; and
              modified, where appropriate, the results of our visits, based on written
              comments provided by each facility (discussed in app. III).



               Page   48                          GAO/IMTEGSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space   Data
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




    We also talked to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    and to the United States Geological Survey officials for a broad perspec-
    tive on tape management activities in other federal agencies.

    Our audit work was performed in accordance with generally accepted
    government auditing standards between November 1988 and *January
    1990 at various locations, including:

l USA headquarters in Washington, D.C.;
. Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland;
l NARA headquarters in Washington, D.C.;
l   GSAheadquarters in Washington, D.C.;
l National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Environ-
  mental Satellite, Data, and Information Service in Washington, D.C.;
l United States Geological Survey headquarters in Reston, Virginia;
l NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland; and
l JPL in Pasadena, California.




    Page 49                              GAO/E%fTEGSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix II

Characteristicsof Magnetic Tapes


                                                A standard magnetic tape’ consists of 2,400 feet of a thin substrate
                                                material, usually polyester film, coated with an iron oxide suspended in
                                                a binder. Other components include plasticizer, antistatic and wetting
                                                agents, lubricant,s, and agents designed to retard bloom and fungal
                                                growth. Figure II. 1 shows the principal components of a magnetic tape
                                                in relationship with common contaminants. Figure II.2 is an electron
                                                microscope view of a foreign particle embedded in the binder of a mag-
                                                netic tape.

Figure 11.1:Magnetic   Tape and Its Principal   Contaminants2


                                                                                                          Human Hair
                                                                                                          3000 Micro Inches




                                                                                Dust Particle

                               Smoke Particle
                               250 Micro
                               Inches
         Oxide
         Particles

   Binder
   Compound -


      Mylar
      Substrate ’
                                                                                      I
                                                                              Back-Coating Layer




                                                 ’ In this report we are limiting our discussions to the most commonlv used tape - the 2.M) feer long
                                                 6,250 Bits Per Inch (BPI) tapes. In addition to this type of tape. NAkA is also using and stormg a \vlde
                                                 variety of tapes ranging from older, low density tapes to high density analog tapes.
                                                 ‘“Care and Handling Manual for Magnetic Tape Recording,” in Magnetic Tape Recording for the
                                                 Eighties. SASA Reference Publication 1075. NASA. Apri! 1982, p. 133; and Tape Management and
                                                 Evaluation, Data Devices International, Chatsworth. CA. 1982. p. 10.



                                                 Page 50                                          GAO/IMTEXXO-1       Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                                                Appendix II
                                                Characteristics   of Magnetic   Tapes




Figure 11.2: Foreign Particle   Embedded   in Magnetic    Tape3
                                                                      2. - CA           ..                -\ c
                                                                                        d &&. \-
                                                                    - ??*ri_”                   J            I
                                                              .a&,,      - Y                  -   _   e




                                                 A standard tape, consisting of polyester substrate coated with binder
                                                 and magnetic oxide, is wound around a tape hub and sandwiched
                                                 between two flanges. In some instances, the flanges are secured by a

                                                 “Tape Management and Evaluation, Data Devices International, Chatsworth, CA, 1982, p. 7. (Cour-
                                                 tesy of Data Devices International.)



                                                 Page 51                                         GAO/IMTEG90-1    Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                                             Appendix II
                                             Characteristics   of Magnetic   Tapes




                                             strap or a wrap-around band and hung on a tape rack. In other
                                             instances, tape may be stored in a plastic or metal canister.

Figure 11.3:Major Components   of Magnetic   Tape


                                                                                               Mylar
                                                                                               Tape




                                                                              ’ Flanges    ’




                                              Page 52                                     GAO/IMTECSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendis III

Facility ComplianceWith Tape
ManagementStandards

                         Our review of selected tape processing and storage facilities revealed
                         significant deficiencies in most aspects of the tape management process.
                         Our findings are grouped by two sets of standards--NAM’s mandatory
                         regulations and NET’S and industry guidelines, including recommenda-
                         tions provided by the International Council on Archives. Our rating of
                         facility compliance with tape management regulations and guidelines is
                         based on visits to each facility, discussions with facility staff, and on a
                         review of relevant documents. When appropriate, we photographed sig-
                         nificant deficiencies in tape management practices and summarized our
                         findings in a tape management checklist,


                         We asked each facility’ to review and comment on our findings. To facil-
Response to Our          itate this process, we gave them (1) a copy of our checklist including
Findings                 notations of the facility’s compliance level, (2) a table including an
                         explanation of how we assigned compliance ratings, (3) a copy of NAKA’S
                         tape management regulations, and (4) a copy of MST’S tape management
                         guidelines. We modified our rating in instances where the facility pro-
                         vided additional information or explanation. The following section sum-
                         marizes their comments.


National Space Science   The Center’s official agreed in general that NSSDCdoes not comply with
Data Center              all federal regulations and guidelines and noted that the facility was
                         built 20 years ago, before these regulations were issued. He also stated
                         that the facility “adopted” &ET'S tape management guidelines which are
                         implemented as resources permit. In regard to the uncalibrated tempera-
                         ture and humidity recorder installed in the NSSDCS tape library, the offi-
                         cial said that there is no reason to believe that the temperature of the
                         archive area has ever exceeded the recommended range. In responding
                         to our finding on the lack of security, the official noted that NSSDChas
                         never lost a tape through unauthorized removal or for any other reason.
                         We were told that the Center is planning to redefine procedures and
                         readjust spending priorities there and at NASA'S headquarters to comply
                         more fully with relevant federal regulations and guidelines. The Center
                         said it is very concerned that NASA'S data, acquired at significant cost to
                         the U.S. taxpayer, will be available to tomorrow’s researchers to further
                          increase our understanding of our earth, solar system, and the universe.



                         ’ We did not ask the Digital Equipment Corporation’s Data Protection Services to comment because It
                         1sno longer operational. JPl, transferred its tape holdings to another commercial facility



                          Page 53                                        GAO/IMTEGSO-1      Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                            Appendix III
                            Facility Compliance With Tape
                            Management Standards




                            We disagree with the Center’s argument that its tapes are adequately
                            stored. The Center is storing over 70,000 tapes in boxes at the Washing-
                            ton National Records Center with only partial environmental control and
                            maintenance. Moreover, since the Center is not annually sampling its
                            tape holdings, it cannot detect potential data losses. Similarly, while the
                            lack of security at NSSDC’S tape library may not have resulted in a docu-
                            mented unauthorized removal of stored tapes, this may occur unless the
                            Center complies with NARA'S access control regulations.


Smithsonian Astrophysical   Without commenting directly on our compliance ratings, the Observa-
                            tory addressed several of our concerns. It noted that it (1) maintains a
Observatory                 backup of tapes containing all intermediate and archival data, (2) regu-
                            larly “spins” its tapes to prevent print-through, (3) plans to store and
                            archive all its data on Write Once Read Many (WORM) and on Compact
                            Disk Read Only Memory (CD-ROM) optical storage disks, and (4) plans
                            to archive all original tapes at the NSSDC. Concerning the lack of security
                            in the observatory’s computer room and tape libraries, the official said
                            that the nature of the data and the institution’s research orientation do
                            not warrant extraordinary access controls. NARA requires that only
                             authorized personnel be given access to tape storage libraries and com-
                            puter rooms. But we think an adequate access control may be imple-
                             mented in a research setting without unduly burdening the users.

                            While the Observatory is maintaining backup of its tapes, many are with
                            the originals. SARA requires that backup tapes be stored off-site to
                            ensure their survival if the originals are destroyed. However, since the
                            Observatory stored at least a part of its backup tapes off-site, we
                            changed the backup rating from noncompliance to partial compliance.


Multi-Mission Image          No response received as of January 1990.
Processing Laboratory

Infrared Processin .g and    The Center’s official generally agreed with our findings and noted that
Analysis Center              the Center is planning to modify its practices to better comply with the
                             relevant federal regulations and guidelines. As to the lack of security,
                             the official partially disagreed with our findings, noting that all Center
                             personnel are authorized to enter computer rooms and tape libraries,
                             and that the introduction of a stringent access control may be counter-
                             productive in a research environment. Nevertheless, NARA requires that
                                                       l




                             Page 64                             GAO/IM’lXC90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                           Appendix III
                           Facility Compliance With Tape
                           Management Standards




                           facilities that store and process magnetic tapes implement adequate
                           access controls to ensure that only authorized personnel are allowed to
                           enter storage libraries and computer rooms.


Center for Astrophysics    The Center disagreed with us about its tape management practices, not-
                           ing that the findings distort the Center’s tape storage activities. In par-
and Space Sciences         ticular, the official noted that (1) most of the data in the Center’s
                           archive and all the data in storage are from programs that closed, and
                           the university holds no obligation or responsibility to the government
                           for these data; (2) until GAO'S review! the government was entirely indif-
                           ferent to the data and has never funded their preservation. These data
                           were kept because the Center’s scientists believe that they have a poten-
                           tial scientific value; and (3) tapes containing data for which the Center
                           is responsible are kept in an air conditioned building with temperature
                           range between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

                           While we agree that the Center may not have an obligation or responsi-
                           bility to maintain data from ~ASA'S older missions, the Center’s scientists
                           believe that these data have potential scientific value and should be pre-
                           served. Therefore, in our opinion, if these tapes contain valuable scien-
                           tific data, then NASA and the Center must ensure that they are
                           adequately maintained and stored. The Center also noted that NASA did
                           not inform the Center that it should comply with federal tape manage-
                           ment regulations and guidelines.


EROS Data Center           Generally agreeing with our compliance ratings, the Center noted its
                           funding is inadequate to comply with every federal tape management
                           regulation and guideline. The tape storage and maintenance problems
                           will be solved once the Center transfers its tape holdings to optical
                           disks. The Center stated that it is not cost-effective to maintain a dupli-
                           cate set of the Center’s tape holding in an off-site location, since its fire
                           suppression system provides adequate protection for the stored tapes.
                           While a good fire suppression system may limit damage, it is a IGAR~ reg-
                           ulation to store a backup copy of all original tapes containing valuable
                           data at an off-site location to ensure the preservation of data in the
                           event of a major disaster.


Tape Staging and Storage    Having agreed that TSSF does not comply with SARA temperature and
Facility                    humidity regulations, NASA monitoring officials noted their subsequent
                            installation of a temperature and humidity record in the tape storage


                            Page 55                             GAO/IMTECZlO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                             Appendix III
                             Facility Compliance With Tape
                             Management Standards




                             area. Agreeing that TSSF was in partial compliance with security regula-
                             tions, he said it will post “authorized access only” signs at the entrance
                             to the tape storage area. But this will not tighten the library’s security.
                             In regard to MST'S guidelines, the official responded that the facility will
                             take corrective action when practical and if resources permit. Despite
                             these deficiencies, he insisted the tapes have not been harmed. But hav-
                             ing failed to sample and test stored tapes in accord with NARA'S regula-
                             tions, TSSF cannot possibly know if their tapes are unharmed. Until these
                             deficiencies are corrected, they remain at risk.

                             We also found that TSSF was storing several hundred thousand tapes in
                             boxes kept on pallets strapped by steel bands. The official noted that if
                             the facility were to store these tapes on tape racks, the storage costs
                             would be significantly higher, since the facility would require additional
                             storage space. Granting his argument, the practice is nevertheless
                             totally unacceptable and should be corrected.


National Archives and        NARA   stated that it has only a limited responsibility for NASA tapes stored
Records Administration       at NARA'S record centers. From NARA'S perspective, as long as the tapes
                             remain in NASA'S legal custody, NASA is solely responsible for regulations
                             such as tape cleaning, certifying, and backups. NARA also pointed out
                             that NET'S guidelines were not incorporated in NARA'S regulations and
                             therefore are not applicable to NARA'S Washington National Records
                             Center and the Los Angeles National Records Center at Laguna Kiguei.
                             NARA'S responses to our compliance ratings for both facilities are dis-
                             cussed below. We agree that iL4SA is responsible for the maintenance of
                             its tapes stored at NARA'S federal centers, and for that reason we did not
                             rate NAM'S compliance with such regulations in regards to its centers.
                             However, we found that NARA records centers were not complying with
                             NARA'S own tape management regulations, and that NARA was also not
                             providing oversight of NASA tape management practices despite its
                             responsibility for doing so. While we agree that NARA is not required to
                             implement NET'S tape management guidelines, we believe that following
                             them would ensure the preservation of tapes stored at NARA'S federal
                              records centers.


Washington National           KARA did not fully concur with our compliance rating. Specifically! NARA
Records Center                noted that the Center:

                         l    is in partial compliance with the temperature and humidity regulations
                              in the storage vault holding NASA tapes by periodically measuring tem-


                              Page 56                             GAO/IMTECsO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                                               Appendix III
                                               Facility Compliance With Tape
                                               Management Standards




                                               perature and humidity with a portable hygro-thermograph;         we
                                               agreed and adjusted our rating accordingly;
                                           l   is now in full compliance with the access control regulations since the
                                               Center has stationed a guard in the facility’s lobby to monitor the front
                                               entrance and exits;
                                           l   is in full compliance with the fire protection regulations because of the
                                               Center’s adherence to fire codes and regulations, which mitigates fire
                                               hazards posed by combustible materials stored near hX3A tapes.

                                               We disagree because, according to NET, combustible materials nearby
                                               constitute a fire hazard. We pointed out that a fire did occur in one of
                                               the Center’s vaults as shown in the following figure:

Figure 111.1:Records   Damaged   by Fire at the Washington   National   Records Center




                                                Page 57                                  GAO/IMTEC%O-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                              Appendix III
                              Facility Compliance With Tape
                              Management Standards




                          l   is in full compliance with the water protection guidelines and provides
                              plastic sheets in the event of a water leak. We disagree since full compli-
                              ance in this category would require the installation of water detectors.

                              NAFU  also stated that because NASA’S tapes are stored in boxes, the
                              Center does not require tape racks. We disagree, since the practice of
                              storing tapes in unsealed boxes rather than in tape racks is not recom-
                              mended by either NET or the industry.


                              KAR.A concurred with our rating for the temperature and humidity con-
Federal Records Center,
                              trol, but disagreed with our rating for the fire and water protection
Laguna Niguel                 guidelines, noting that the Center’s storage area is adequately protected
                              by an automatic sprinkler system. We disagree, because the Center did
                              not install water detectors and was storing tapes in close proximity to
                              combustible materials.




                              Page 58                             GAO/IMTEXXO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix I\

NASA’s Commentsand GAO’s Response


supplementtng those In the   r-
report text appear at the
end of this appendix
                                  Nattonal Aeronautics      and
                                  Space Admlnlstratlon
                                  WashIngton      D C
                                  20546
                                  Otfjce 01 the Admtnlstrator
                                                                                               January    5,   I.990



                                  Mr. Ralph V. Carlone
                                  Assistant    Comptroller General
                                  Information    Management and
                                     Technology   Division
                                  United States General Accounting             Office
                                  Washington,    DC 2054%

                                   Dear Mr.          Carlone:
                                           The National   Aeronautics     and Space Administration      (NASA)
                                   appreciates     the opportunity      to review and comment on the
                                   General    Accounting    Office    (GAO) draft    report  entitled,  "Space
                                   Operations:       NASA is Not Properly       Safeguarding   Valuable  Data
                                   From Past Missions"       (GAO/IMTEC-90-1,       Code 510327).
                                            We are very concerned that the report,          while addressing
                                   certain     shortcomings     in magnetic tape management, does not
                                   present     a fair    and balanced description     of our efforts         to
                                   manage Space Science data in a broader context.                  We take
                                   especially      strong exception     to the implication       that NASA is not
                                   safeguarding       the space science data as a national            resource     for
                                   future     science generations.        NASA's unquestioned       history      and
                                   recent record of scientific          success and accomplishments            clearly
                                   vitiates      what we consider     to be a groundless      implication.         We
                                   believe     that the tone of the report        is unnecessarily         harsh, and
                                   contains      sweeping generalizations       and extrapolations         which we
                                   believe     to be unfounded and unsubstantiated.
                                           In our view the report    lacks balance because it fails        to
                                   reflect    the emphasis placed on data management as an integral
                                   part of our current     and planned science programs and the NASA
                                   commitment to stewardship      of science data products.         The report
                                   does not adequately     acknowledge    the outstanding  record NASA has
                                   achieved     in the area of storing    and delivering  scientific      data
                                   and information     from its space missions.
                                          This is not meant        to imply   that NASA has had a perfect
                                   system for safeguarding          valuable    space science data stored on
                                   magnetic tapes in the          past because we have not.         We recognize
                                   that there is room for           improvement and our cognizant       managers
                                   have been and continue           to be dedicated    to achieving    improve-
                                   ments.     Your proposed       recommendations    reflect   concerns that are
                                   being addressed in our           ongoing and planned programs.




                                               Page 59                                  GAO/IMTEG90-1    Preaeming     Valuable   Space Data
     Appendix N
     NASA’s Comments    and GAO’s Response




        More detailed    comments on the draft           report    are contained
in an enclosure       to this letter.        We recommended        that consid-
eration     be given to further       illumination       of the    situation
through additional       discussions       and identification          of pertinent
information     which might produce a more balanced                report.      We are
prepared to participate         in a continuing         dialogue     at your
convenience.
                                             Sincerely,

                                                    g.&
                                             P ohn E. O'Brien
                                             Assistant   Deputy       Administrator
Enclosure




      Page 60                                     GAO/IMTEC90-1     Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                    Appendix N
                    NASA’s Comments    and GAO’s Response




                                                    Enclosure

                           NASA Response to GAO DraR Report GAO/lMTEC-90-1

                The following provides specific comments relating to the assertions contained
                in the Executive Summa of the draft report, This material is organized in
                the same format used in xt e Executive Summary in order to facilitate cross-
                referencing.
                “NASA Stores Many of its Tapes Under Substandard Conditions”
                While the report cites lack of compliance with the National Archives and
                Records Administration (NARA) regulations it does not provide any evidence
                of significant loss of data due to ta e handling and storage. In fact, we have
                to date experienced no significant Poss of scientific data as identified by our
                science customers and, in our periodic tests to determine the degradation of
                sampled tapes, we have shown a more than satisfactory preservation of data.
                For example, recently we performed tests of 90 tapes selected from the period
                1967 - 1975 in order to determine their continuing utilit       Of these 90 tapes,
                69 were read without a single “read” error, 10 tapes had T* ess then 3 “read’
                errors, and the remainder had no more then 5 “read” errors. Of those tapes
                that had “read” errors, the data could still be retrieved by means of a “re-
                read” routine. These statistics are excellent indicators of the continuing
                viability of these.data records. We are concerned that results have been
                sub;;;ent     to bhnd compliance with gtlldelines 111the view of the GAO

                With no evidence of loss of data or other explicit tests of their assertions, this
                report results in a superficial anal sis of tape handling, storage, and
                management, as prescribed by N ALA regulations. The stud evaluates
                facilities against a set of unique1 defined rigid standards w Ki ch are very
                costly to implement. Most were Pound to come u short, includin Federal
                Records Centers under NARA auspices where al P$venunenta.l &a is
                archived. It is interestin to note that NARA itse f cited lack of resources to
                accomplish its n...overag3 t reviews of NASA’s ta e management rogram ....”
                If the agency establishing the regulations is una gle to comply wi 5, its own
                directives, it may be worth reassessing whether the regulations are
See comment 1   appropriate and feasible.
                “NASA Has Not Performed an Aeencv-wide Inventorv of Data Holdings”
                NASA does have a corn lete catalo e of all data holdin         in all data centers.
                NASA also has the NA l A Master it-rrectory system whit*IT provides on-line
                information to the research community about existing data sets, including
                archive locations and means to get more information for ordering data
                products, etc. This major system enhancement is operational and has been
                extremely well received by the science user community. We are conducting
                an extensive census effort with our principal investi ator community to
                identify the data sets still in preparation that shoul f be included in archives


                                                                                                Ecclosure




                     Page 61                                     GAO/EWWXO-1       Preserving     Valuable   Space Data
                  Appendix N
                  NASA’s Comments    and GAO’s Response




                ,lnd made av&!able to the general research communit        As these data sets
                are identified, they will be added routinely to the NA s’A Master Directory to
                  rovide a complete and easily accessible reference for our entire community.
                Ji his process was thoroughly described to the auditors during the course of
                the investigation, although not acknowledged in the Executive Summary of
                the report.
                The assertion focuses on the mechanics of counts of magnetic tape reels,
                totally ignoring the essence of the NASA mission which is to manage and
See comment 2   make available the data and information stored on that medium.
                “Scarce Resources are Used to Store Data of Little or No Value”
                The assertion that NASA is using scarce resources to store data that may be
                of little or no scientific value is wrthout merit and, in light of the activities
                underway at the time of the audit, particularly troublesome. The example
                cited refers to 130,000 tapes stored at a federal records center. NASA had
                initiated and was performing an anal sis in conjunction with representatives
                of the planetary science disapline to Be&mine their scientific value before
                summarily destroying the total inventory. NASA feels that prior to an
                decision to dispose of this data, a reasonable effort to determine the va Kue is
                wananted. This approach is in keeping with the primary objective of not
                dispensing any space-derived data set without a conscious professional
                 assessment of its ultimate worth to the science community.
                The accusation that a oup of scientists noted that much of the planetary
                data archived by the f SSDC are of uncertain uahty or accuracy becomes
                obsolete when one recognizes the time f%ameoP the situation cited. The
                  articular statement appeared in a re rt documenting a 1983 workshop.
                E.mce that time, we have implemente 8”a Planetary Data mm             that
                provides electronic access to these data in order for the discipline researchers
                to perform their analyses. This telecommunications system provides ease of
                access to the data as it is being analyzed and facilitates early recognition of
                any problems regarding data quality and accuracy before certification of a
                data set for inclusion in the archive system. We have also begun to
                implement a program whereby ongoing research is co-located with
                repositories of major data sets. This ap roach assures continuous evaluation
                of the data for their quality and utility Por specific research investigations.
                The Infrared Procesan and Analysis Center (IPAC) for astrophysics
                research is a model oft t s concept and is recognized by members of this
See comment 3   discipline as a major contribution to the productivity of their research.
                “Data’Archiving   is Treated as a Low Priority Activity”
                                                           ironic in light of recent




                                                                                          Enclosure




                    Page 62                                    GAO/IMTEG90-1     Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                  Appendix N
                  NASA’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




                FY 1990 and owing to over $5.OM in subsequent years. Final action by the
                Congress on tr e FY 1390 budget request was to direct a reduction of $5M in
                the overall information systems program.
                Notwithstanding the statement by GAO that overall responsibility for data
                archiving has not been assigned, it is clear within NASA that management of
                our space-acqcred data assets is assigned to the Office of Space Science and
                Applications (OSSA) These duties are accomplished within broad
                                 olicies and guidelines for information resources management
                                 e Office of Management. The Communications and
                                         Division has principal responsibilit within OSSA for
                ensuring that science data are archived and made availa i: le to the general
                science community. This is accomplished in close con’unction with the
                science discipline divisions within OSSA where specd c flight and research
                programs are implemented. A key element for implementing the archive
                program is the National Space Science Data Center which has been assigned
                since 1967 the responsibility for preserving project generated data.
                Balancing our resources for data ac uisition with those for data management
                and archiving is also a significant eh ort in the early planning and
                implementation of each of our new flight projects. Our “new start” cost
                reviews require that specific attention be ‘ven to addressing the resources
                required for ongoing data mana 5.ement. &SA has implement.ed~NASA
                  olicy which requires that each ight project office generate a Pro ect Data
                El anagement Plan (PDMP) which establishes detailed understan ‘ng of the
                expected data volume and characteristics, the data processing system design,
                and anticipated delivery schedules for archival data delivery.
                The importance of long-term data management issues as a priority at the
                onset of a project is demonstrated by the Data Archival and Distribution
                System (DADS) for Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Data and
                Information System (DIS) for Earth Observing System (EOS) projects. In
                both examples, active forethought has been given to archival and distribution
                of data products of assured quality through the extended lifetime of their
                res ective projects. The importance and criticalit of science data handling
                to 5, e success of the EOS mission is reflected by x e fact that it represents
                one of the largest elements in overall program resource estimates.
                In addition, OSSA has initiated an Information Systems Strategic Planning
                Project that has involved the space science research community as well as the
                Agency’s operational elements to provide guidance on an aEpnate
                approach to this overall function. The project report is in  1 pre aration
                for publication and implementation has begun within OSSA as weQ*  1111the
See comment 4   Office of Space Operations.
                “Recommendations”
                As evidenced by NASA’s recognition in the worldwide science community as
                the foremost leader in providing scientific results from its flight missions and
                subse uent analysis, we cannot accept the reference to “chronic deficiencies
                in N Al A’s management of the existing space science data.” Our record
                demonstrates that we have created a system that is responsive to the needs


                                                                                 Eb3osure




                   Page 63                                   GAO/IMTECW-1     Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
                    Appendix N
                    NASA’s Comment-s and GAO’s Response




                of the user community and reflects a conscientious effort to continue to
                recognize the need for continued evolution. We cannot iden@ any evidence
                of loss of critical data sets due to mismanagement or lack of .+ystematic
                processes that guard the integrity of our archives. In our judgment, all of the
                recommendations are being addressed in our present ongoing programs and
                are bei reflected in the evolution of our management of this function. We
                believe %t t this function is receiving continuing management attention and
                ongoing processes are in place to assure that we do not slacken our attention.
                It is truly unfortunate that the GAO (GAOAMTEC-90-l) report does not
See comment 5   capture this aspect of our management.




                                                                                       Enclosure




                                              .


                     Page 64                                   GAO/IMTFZCSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
               Appendix N
               NASA’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




               The following are GAO’Scomments on the National Aeronautics and
               Space Administration letter dated January 5, 1990. NASA limited its
               detailed comments to the draft executive summary of this report.


               1. "~4s~ Stores Many of its Tapes Under Substandard Conditions”
GAO Comments
               According to NASA, our report contains no evidence of any significant
               loss of dat,a due to tape handling and storage, and its periodic tests to
               determine the degradation of sampled tapes show that it is satisfactorily
               preserving data. NASA says that with no evidence of loss of data or other
               explicit tests of our assertions, our report results in a superficial analy-
               sis of tape handling, storage, and management, as prescribed by SARA
               regulations. NASA also suggested that NARA may need to reassess whether
               its regulations are appropriate and feasible.

               We disagree. First, we believe we have cited sufficient evidence of a
               major risk to NASA data. According to JPL officials with substantial
               experience and expertise in tape management and restoration, data have
               been lost. JPL estimates that about 50 percent of the 130,000 tapes it had
               originally stored at a federal records center may be damaged beyond
               recovery or contain data of little or no value. This evidence, combined
               with the serious physical storage conditions we noted elsewhere, sub-
               stantiates our concern that NASA’S space science data stored on magnetic
               tapes are at serious risk of becoming partially or completely unusable.

               Second, NASA'S assertion that its periodic testing of stored tapes provides
               excellent indicators of the continuing viability of its tapes is misleading.
               NASA'S use of the word periodic implies that it has a regular ongoing pro-
               gram to monitor the condition of its tapes. Although KARA requires that
               each tape storage facility annually sample its tape holdings to detect
               tape deterioration. none of the facilities we visited performed the man-
               datory annual tests. Further, the test NASA referred to was a single test
               of 90 tapes, which is insufficient to detect tape deterioration and data
               losses because the sample NASA used was not statistically valid and rep-
               resented only a small fraction of the 113,000 tapes stored by SSSDC.
               Therefore, the results cannot be projected to NSSDC’S overall tape hold-
               ings, nor can they be projected to tape holdings maintained by ~4s~ in
               other facilities. We considered performing actual tests for readability,
               but chose not to because of a very serious tape restoration problem dis-
               covered by JPL and the potential risk of losing NASA'S valuable data. As
               explained on page 3 1, JPL found that trying to read tapes over 10 years
               old can often destroy them.


                Page 65                               GAO/IMTJXXO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Spare Data
Appendix IV
NASA’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




Third, regarding SARA’Sregulations, we believe that ~4s~ had ample
opportunity to challenge NARA’S tape management regulations when
they were published for comment in the Federal Register.’ In comment-
ing on the proposed revisions, NASA did not challenge two of the key tape
management regulations-temperature       and humidity control, and
annual testing of stored tapes,? -and went further to suggest that the

“requirement to maintain magnetic computer tapes at a constant temperature of tiZ-
68” F and a constant relative humidity of 34-35X should apply to Federal records
centers also. because all of them do not provide these conditions.”

Also, NASA did not challenge NARA’S regulation for annual sampling and
testing of stored tapes to detect deterioration. In commenting on a regu-
lation directing agencies to copy permanent data before the tapes are 10
years old on to tested and verified new tapes, KASA did argue that this
regulation may be costly, but suggested that this regulation “should be
determined by the annual 3 percent test results.”

2. “NASA Has ru’ot Performed an Agency-wide Inventory of Data
Holdings”

NASA’S position that each of its data centers has a complete catalogue of
all data holdings and that its Master Directory provides on-line informa-
tion to the research community does not negate our finding that N.UA
does not maintain a central inventory of its magnetic tapes containing
space science data. First, while we noted that each facility we visited
maintained a tape and data inventory, these inventories were of varying
quality and completeness. Second, the NASA Master Directory does not
keep information on individual magnetic tapes, but provides limited
information about data sets in selected scientific disciplines. According
to NASA officials, the directory contains approximately 1,000 data sets,
thus representing only a small fraction of the existing space science data
now stored on magnetic tapes.

NARA requires that each agency maintain a complete inventory of its
magnetic tapes. This regulation is designed to provide information
needed for the development of specific disposition instructions for data
stored on tapes, including retention periods for temporary and perma-
nent records. SARA officials noted that in the past NASA has refused to

 ‘Federal Register(53 FR 48936).December.5.1988.
 ‘NASA’s “Commentson ProposedRevisionof Codeof FederalRegulations,Title 36. Chapter 12.Part
 1234.Electrow RecordManagement,”February 6, 1989.



 Page 66                                    GAO/IMTEGSO-1    Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix N
NASA’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




perform such an inventory, noting that     SARA’S      inventory regulation was
too “intrusive.”

About October 1989, USA launched a commendable effort to inventory
its tapes. At the time we completed our work, this “census” effort was
limited to tapes managed by Goddard and JPL. In January 1990, NASA
told us it planned to expand this census to include additional locations,
but gave no specific details on the scope of this effort. Chapter 3 details
NASA'S Master Directory and its ongoing tape census.

3. “Scarce Resources are Used to Store Data of Little or No Value”

This section, although now deleted from the executive summary, is dis-
cussed on pp. 33 to 34 of the report. NASAasserts that our finding is
without merit, but we disagree. The evidence we used to support our
concern that scarce resources may be used to store some tapes that may
contain data of marginal value is based on information obtained at two
locations-X% and IKSSDC.   According to JPL officials familiar with its res-
toration efforts, about half of the 130,000 tapes formerly stored at the
Federal Records Center were probably damaged or degraded beyond res-
toration, or contained data no longer worth keeping. Thus, about 65,000
tapes kept by JPL in storage contained data of little or no value or data
that cannot be restored.

In regard to the variable quality, questionable accuracy, and low resolu-
tion of the planetary data archived by NSSDC,NASA comments that the
statement made by the planetary scientists in 1983 is now obsolete since
NASA has implemented the Planetary Data System that provides elec-
tronic access to these data so the discipline researchers can perform
their analyses. This implies that (1) MSA has improved the quality,
accuracy, and completeness of these data, and (2) these data were trans-
ferred from K~SDCand are currently resident in the Planetary Data
System.

 We disagree with these implications. According to its manager, the sys-
 tem incorporates only a fraction of these data. The system is restoring
 data from past planetary missions, and plans to incorporate them in its
 data base. But there is no schedule for completion of this effort, which,
 in any case, depends on funds USA allocates.

 Nonetheless, we did note on p. 34 that NASA has taken steps to
 strengthen its archiving of planetary data through the Planetary Data
 System. If the conditi0n.s noted in the planetary data also applied to


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hppcndix N
NASA’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




data from other scientific disciplines. other tapes may contain data of
marginal value.

4. “Data Archiving is Treated as a Low Priority Activity”

According to N~S.A,it has continuously sought to assure appropriate
funding for the data archival function, but budget cuts in fiscal years
1989 and 1990 prevented it from doing so. The management of space-
acquired data is assigned to the Office of Space Science and Applica-
tions, which. through project data management plans, requires new mis-
sions to specifically address the resources required for ongoing data
management. Its commitment to long-term data management and preser-
vation is demonstrated in the development of data systems designed to
support new missions. including the Hubble Space Telescope and the
Earth Observing System and by the Information System Strategic Plan-
ning Project.

We could not substantiate NASA’S funding assertions for prior years, as
well as fiscal years 1989 and 1990. 141though Congress cut SXSA’Sinfor-
mation systems budget both years, h“ASA officials could not document its
plans to allocate additional resources to (1) improve its management of
magnetic tapes containing space science data from its past missions
beyond those resources allocated to the limited data restoration and
data census activities, and (2) upgrade its tape storage facilities to con-
form with federal regulations.

We do not dispute that responsibility for data archiving is assigned to
the Office of Space Science and Applications. Our point is that this
office, for past missions, “did not adequately lead and manage projects,
field centers, and facilities that manage, store, and archive data.” In
light of the deficiencies we noted during our visits to NASA’S tape storage
facilities, including the massive volumes of poorly maintained tapes
stored in what USA officials themselves described as “deplorable condi-
tions,” we could not conclude otherwise. Moreover, our concerns regard-
ing the poorly defined management structure and responsibilities are
also shared by SAEL~. In commenting on this report, the Archivist of the
United States noted that, based on SARA’S experience, our conclusion
that NASA views data management as a low priority activity was not lim-
ited to data management, but also applied to records management as
well.




Page 68                                GAO/IMTECSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
.4ppendix N
NA!3A’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




iV;e believe NASA’Semphasis on ensuring that its new missions pay spe-
cific att,ention to the allocation of data management resources is a posi-
tive step that may help to ensure the preservation of valuable data from
future missions. We applaud USA'S decision to require that each mission
prepare a project data management plan. Yet, although this requirement
was established in 1978, it has not been enforced. Kot one NM.\ mission
launched between 1978 and 1987 prepared such a plan.

We agree that new and sophisticated data management systems and
strategies is another positive step in the long-term management and
preservation of space science data to be acquired by the future missions.
However, as evidenced by our findings, we did not find a similar com-
mitment to the preservation of data acquired by the past missions.

.?. “Recommendations”

Citing its recognition in the worldwide science community as the fore-
most leader in providing scientific results from its missions, USA cannot
accept the reference to chronic deficiencies in its management of
existing space science data. NASA notes that it cannot identify any evi-
dence of loss of critical data sets due to mismanagement or a lack of
systematic processes that guard the integrity of its archives. We
disagree.

Although NASA appears to be heading in the right direction towards han-
dling data from future missions, we do not believe the deficiencies in
managing data from past missions occurred overnight. Beginning with
early spacecraft, data began to accumulate. Although the problems may
have been insignificant at first, NA!3Anow has well over 1 million tapes
that must be identified, maintained, and, where appropriate, preserved
for future science generations. In light of the poor storage conditions we
noted at several locations, combined with the lack of proper mainte-
nance. we believe that ~~s.4 would find data losses if it complied with
SARA’Sregulation and periodically sampled its tape holdings to detect
tape and data deterioration. JPL'S current restoration of the 130,000
tapes formerly stored at the Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel
substantiates our concerns and provides NASA with a wealth of informa-
tion on the effects of a substandard tape storage environment on mag-
netic tapes and on the extent of data losses. We suggest that NASA use
this information to develop programs designed to protect the hundreds
of thousands of magnetic tapes stored without adequate environmental
controls in other SXSA and contractor tape storage facilities.



 Page 69                                GAO/IMTEGSO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix N
WA’s    Comments   and GAO’s Response




NASA stated that our recommendations were being addressed in its pre-
sent ongoing programs and were being reflected in the evolution of its
management of this function. While we agree that NASA is planning to
partially implement two of our recommendations, it is too early to evalu-
ate if these or other planned actions will be successful.




Page 70                                 GAO/IMTEC90-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix V

NARA’s Commentsand GAO’sResponse


Note GAO comments
supplementing those In the
report text appear at the
end of this appendix


                                                                                                    Washington, DC 20408




                             Mr. Ralph V. Carlone
                             Assistant     Comptroller      General
                             Information      Management      and
                             Technology      Division
                             General     Accounting    Office
                             Washington,      DC 20548

                             Dear   Mr.   Carlone:

                             The National     Archives    and Records  Administration        (NARA) is
                             Dleased   to orovide      comments on Your draft       report   entitled
                             SPACE OPERATIONS:         NASA Is Not Properly     Safeguarding        Its
                             Valuable    Space Science     Data (GAO/IMTEC-90-l).

                             Based on our experience                  with NASA, the report's           assertion
                             that     data management            has a low priority        within      NASA is
                             applicable         to records        management     as well.      'We would also
                             like     to point        out that      the records    management        function     in
                             NASA is separate              from the organization          responsible        for the
                             "data      archiving"         at the National       Space Science         Data Center,
                             the Tape Staging              and Storage     Area,    and the Jet Propulsion
                             Library.          While     the NASA records        managers      know about NARA
                             tape requirements,               the requirements       are not being
                             effectively          articulated         to NASA program       managers.

                             We support       the report        recommendation     for an inventory     of
                             NASA's data        tapes.      NARY has recognized        a need for this,    as
                             well    as for     non-electronic         records,  but in the past NASA has
                             refused    to    undertake        an inventory.     As one earlier
                             assessment       put it,      NASA's position      was that    NARA's records
                             management       requirements         were too intrusive.

                             NARA has been working               with      NASA in the areas of records
                             management         mainly     related       to revision       of the NASA records
                             disposition         schedule.         As pointed        out in the report,         NARA
                             has not inspected            NASA.       This     is due to a combination           of
                             factors:         the massiveness            of the undertaking,          our own
                             requirements          in other       areas,     and the expectation           that
                             records       scheduling        and NARA/NASA relations              would improve
                             significantly           as a result         of Saving      the Right     Stuff.     We
                             have seen movement              in some areas,          and have been working          with
                             NASA regularly            for over five         years.       We will    consider
                             inspecting         NASA, as the report              recommends.       If we decide      to
                             do so, the inspection                could     not begin      until   FY 1991.




                               Page 71                                          GAO/IMTEC90-1      Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
    Appendix V
    NARA’s Comments      and GAO’s Response




2

We continue        to disagree       with      the report's          rating      of Federal
Records     Center     compliance        with     fire     and water        protection
requirements.          From both cost and operating                      viewpoints,         it
is not feasible          to provide        separate        storage       areas     for
computer       tape storage       in the present             Federal       Records
Centers     to preclude        storing       tapes with         combustible          paper
records.         We would like        to point        out that       the cited         paper
records     fire     in the Washington            National       Records       Center      was
caused     by arson which could              just      as well     have been set in
computer       tape storage.         Computer          tapes    are also combustibles
with    approximately        twice      the BTUs when compared                 to the same
volume of paper          records.

Floor    water      detectors        are more appropriate               for relatively
small    computer        facilities          and tape libraries,             rather    than
the 40,000        square       foot    records       storage      areas    in Federal
Records       Centers      that     have all       records      shelved      at least     three
inches      above the floor             level.       Moreover,       the Federal       Records
Centers       are equipped          with     automatic       sprinklers        with water
flow    alarms      to a central           station      or fire      department      with
responsibility           to respond          at any time.

We would also            like    to point       out two inaccuracies            in the
draft     report.          On page 30, the NARA requirement                   for
preparation           of archival         tapes    is misstated.          36 CFR 1234.4
 (a) states         that     all   tapes     used to record        information         for
permanent         retention        should     be tested       and certified        --no more
than 6 months before                 use.     On page 50, the draft             report
contains        inaccurate         statements        regarding     earthquake         damage
to the Los Angeles               Federal      Records      Center.      No boxes
containing         JPL magnetic           tapes    fell    from shelves       and the
ceiling      tile       collapse      was limited        to space outside           the
records      storage         area.

Finally,        we believe       that   the discussion        on page 83 of the
70,000       National      Space Science        Data Center     tapes   at the
Washington         National      Records      Center    (WNRC) needs
clarification.             As noted     later     in Appendix     III,  the WNRC has
been rated          as partially      complying      with environmental
controls         and has achieved         full    compliance    with   access
control        requirements.




     Page 72                                            GAO/IMTEC-90-l      Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
 Appendix V
 NARA’s Comments      and GAO’s Response




    3

    We appreciate         this opportunity   to comment on the draft
    report.      If    you have any questions     about our comments,
    please   call      James Megronigle    on 523-3621.

    Sincerely,



\
L-  DON W.
    Archivist
                 WILSON
                     of the   United   States




  Page 73                                       GAO/lMTJX-90-l   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
               Appendix V
               NARA’s Comments   and GAO’s Response




               The following are GAO’S comments on the National Archives and Records
               Administration letter dated December 27, 1989.


               SARAdisagreed with our findings that the Washington National Records
GAO Comments   Center and the Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel are in partial
               compliance with fire and water protection guidelines, noting that (1) it is
               not feasible to provide separate storage areas for computer tapes, and
               (2) water detectors are more appropriate for relatively small computer
               facilities and tape libraries.

               According to NIST and industry guidelines, magnetic tapes should not be
               stored together with large volumes of paper records, regardless of
               whether the storage areas are equipped with automatic fire sprinklers
               or not.

               In regard to the two inaccuracies in the draft report identified by NARA
               (incorrect citation of NARA regulation and the extent of earthquake dam-
               age at the Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel), we corrected the
               identified citation, but we disagree with NARA’S assertion regarding the
               earthquake damage. In a memorandum prepared by JPL staff following
               their visit to the Federal Records Center in Laguna Niguel, the staff
               noted:

               “Visiting the area, we noted that the steel shelves, which are about eight feet tall
               and three feet wide, were moved two inches to the side, toppling several boxes of
               our tapes from the top shelf to the floor. We were told that many sections of the
               acoustical ceiling were shaken loose and fell onto the boxes of tapes, as well as the
               floor.“’




                ‘.JPL Interoffice Memorandum Federal Archives Earthquake Damage, July 14. 1986 Cemphws
                added).
                                          .


                Page 74                                    GAO/IMTECsO-1     Preserving   Valuable   Space Data
Appendix VI

GSA’sComments




              Mr. Ralph V. Carlone
              Assistant     Comptroller        General
              Information      Management        and
                 Technology      Division
              General     Accounting      Office
              Washington,      DC 20548

              Dear     Mr.    Carlone:

              This    is in response              to your     letter    of November    27, 1989,
              requesting      comments            on draft      General   Accounting    Office  Audit
              Report     GAO/IMTEC-90-l.

              Chapter    4: Conclusions        and Recommendations,           under the
              subparagraph        “Recommendation     to the GSA Administrator”,
              recommended      ‘I.. . that  the Administrator         periodically       review   and
              inspect    NASA’s records        management     practices       as required      by the
              Federal    Information       Resources    Management       Regulations.”

              General      Services      Administration       has strengthened      its    Procurement
              and Management           Reviews    Branch which     is responsible       for review       of
              Information         Resources     Management     programs    at the Federal
              agencies.         In the January-March          1990 timeframe,     this     branch   will
              conduct      an Information         Resources    Procurement     and Management
              Review at the National              Aeronautics     and Space Administration.              The
              final     report     will    be made available       to GAO.

              If     additional          information     is    needed,   please contact      either     Thomas
              Horan on 566-1332                or Douglas      Arai   on 566-1180.

              Sincerely,


                     k       WandaR. Kopac~

              Thomas J. Buckhol              tz
              Commissioner




                              Page75                                     GAO/IMTEGBO.1PreservingValuableSpaceData
Appendix VII

Major Contributors to This Report


Information            Ronald W. Beers, Assignment Manager
Management and
            ”
                       Mirko J. Dolak, Evaluator-in-Charge
                       David T. Schwartz, Evaluator
Technology Division,   Darlene D. Rush, Evaluator
Washington, D.C.

                       Allan Roberts, Regional Assignment Manager
Los Angeles Regional   Jeffrey X. Webster, Evaluator
Office                 Lisa Rodely, Evaluator
                       Dawn M. Sellers, Evaluator




 (510327)               Page 76                         GAO/IhfTECXO-1   Preserving   Valuable   Space Data