oversight

1998 NASA Budget: Review of Selected Activities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-30.

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

United States
General Accounting    Office
Washington,   D.C. 20548

National SecuriQ and
International Affairs Division


B-277239

September 30, 1997

Congressional Committees

Subject: 1998 NASA Budget: Review of Selected Activities

We examined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA)
fiscal year 1998 budget request and prior years’ appropriations for selected
programs. Our objective was to identify potential reductions in the fiscal year
1998 budget request and potential rescissions in prior years’ appropriations.

This letter s-arizes       and updates information   provided to your staffs
in May and July 1997. It does not reflect any adjustments       that may have
been taken by the Senate and House Authorization         and Appropriations
Committees     during their review of the fiscal year 1998 NASA budget
request.    We have not acknowledged     the Committees’ actions because
final action is still pending.

We identified opportunities to reduce NASA’s fiscal year 1998 budget request by
about $108 million. These opportunities are primarily in the human space flight
($54.4 m.iU.ion) and mission support ($53 million) areas. We also identified
another $24 million in potential excess funding in the science, aeronautics, and
technology area, which could be restricted, but the exact amount available for
reprogramming or rescission will not be known until the Cassini mission to
Saturn is launched in fiscal year 1998. Table 1 and the following sections
provide details on each of the potential reductions and restrictions.




                                               GAO/NSJAD-97-252R   1998 NASA Budget

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Table 1: Potential Reductions and Restrictions to Selected NASA Programs

Dollars in millions

                                                       Fisca3 year 1998

                                                          Potential                Potential
                                           Request       reduction               restriction

 HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT
    Space Shuttle                           $2,977.8            $54.4                          0

    SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND TECHNOLOGY
    Space Science
       Cassini development                       9.0                   0                  $9.0
       Launch services                        236.3                    0                  15.0
    Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications
       Aerospace medicine              I         7.5                  0.5                      0
    MISSION SUPPORT
    Research and Program Management
       Research operations support            412.0              23.0                          0
    Space Commurfications Services             245.7              10.0                         0
    Construction    of Facilities              159.4             20.0                          0
    Total                                  $4,047.7          $107.9                     $24.0

SPACE SHUTTLE

The Space Shuttle f%cal year 1998 budget request can be reduced by
$54.4 million because an equivalent amount of excess fiscal year 1997 funds can
be used to meet projected program requirements.

In April 1997, the shuttle program manager estimated that the program needed
to carry over $345 milJion into fiscal year 1998-$200 million for forward
funding, $95 million for the continuation of upgrades begun in fiscal year 1997,
and $50 million in program reserves to cover uncertainties with estimating
actual program costs. At that time, the program manager stated that carryover
in excess of $345 million was available for redistribution and that the
redistribution of funds would not affect shuttle safe@. After the House and
Senate Appropriations Committees approved the transfer of $190 million for
space station contingencies in May 1997, NASA estimated that the shuttle
program would have a carryover balance of $399.4 million at the end of fiscal
year 1997. More recently, NASA officials stated that the shuttLe program needs

2                                                          GAO/NSIAD-97-252R 1998 NASA Budget
B-277239

to maim& a carryover balance of $395 million, including $iOO million in
program reserves.

Our review indicated that the $50 million increase in carryover was not justified
because NASA’s fiscal year 1998 budget request already included funding for
program reserves. Therefore, the carryover amount above $345 million-
$54.4 million-is excess to program needs and can be used to reduce NASA’s
fiscal year 1998 budget request. NASA program officials continue to believe
that $395 million is the appropriate carryover balance.

SPACE SCIENCE: CASSINI DEVELOPMENT

Congress can restict the obligation of $9 mihion of funds for the Cassini
development program until NASA determines whether excess fiscal year 1997
funds will be available to meet fiscal year 1998 requirements. If the $9 million
is not needed for its original purpose, the funds can be rescinded or
reprogrammed.

For fiscal year 1998, NASA requested $9 million for the Cassini development
program for work through the planned spacecraft launch on October 6, 1997,
plus the first 30 days of flight. NASA projected that it would carry over into
fiscal year 1998 approximately $52.6 million of uncosted Cassini development
program funds from fiscal year 1997. NASA also projected that up to
$20 million of the carryover would be budget reserves that had not been
obligated by the California Institute of Technology, which is responsible for
developing the Cassini spacecraft. Although sufficient funds likely will be
carried over to meet fiscal year 1998 development requirements, the actual
amount of carryover and unobligated funding will not be known until the end of
fiscal year 1997.

NASA officials agreed that, after the spacecraft is launched and checked out,
the program’s fiscal year 1998 budget could be reduced by an amount equal to
the unused funds remaining in the program’s development budget. However,
the officials believe that the allocation and reallocation of Cassini development
funds should be made through the process NASA has established with
congressional committees for approving funding plans and changes rather than
through specilic 1egisIative constraints such as funding restrictions. The
process includes briefings prior to enactment of appropriations and
correspondence and briefings after enactment on adjustments to NASA’s
funding plans.

SPACE SCIENCE: LAUNCH SERVICES

Congress can restrict the obligation of $15 million of NASA’s launch services
budget until NASA determines that the funds will be needed for the Cassini
launch or justifies an alternative use of the funds.


3                                               GAO/NSIAD-97-252R   1998 NASA Budget
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The NASA fiscal year 1998 budget request for space science launch services
includes $39.6 million for the Cassini spacecraft launch scheduled for October
1997. The $39.6 mihion consists of $24.6 million for the final payment for the
Titan IV launch vehicle and $15 milhon for potential engineering changes and
risk associated with the Cassini launch. At the time of our field work, NASA
officials did not believe that they would need the $15 miIlion to launch the
Cassini spacecraft, although they could not be certain until Cassini is launched.
According to NASA officials, the fiscal year 1998 budget request of
$236.3 million assumed that the likelihood of spending $15 million for Cassini
contingencies was low and that those savings could be applied to other launch
requirements. NASA officials said that those funds would probably be used to
support launch requirements for other NASA missions. If the funds are not
needed for their originaI purpose and an alternative use is not justified, the
$15 million can be rescinded or reprogrammed for other purposes in fiscal year
 1998.

LIFE AND MICROGRAVITY SCIENCES AND APPLICATIONS: AEROSPACE
MEDICINE

The fiscal year 1998 appropriation for aerospace medicine can be reduced by
$0.5 million because the program has fiscal year 1997 funds available to cover
fiscal year 1998 costs. The aerospace medicine program will have an uncosted
carryover balance equal to over 8 months of funding. NASA has identified
$0.5 mihion of these funds as excess and plans to reprogram these funds for
other programs. If these funds are not reprogrammed, they can be used to
reduce NASA’s fiscal year 1998 budget request.

RESEARCH AND PROGRAM MANAGEMENT                  RESEARCH OPERATIONS
SUPPORT

NASA has proposed reducing its fiscal year 1998 budget request for research
operations support by $23 mihion because it plans to add an equivalent amount
of funding to that budget item in fiscal year 1997. In August 1997, NASA
proposed transferring $23 million of excess funds from its budget for personnel
and related costs to the research operations support budget, both of which are
in the Mission Support appropriation According to NASA officials, they would
like to reduce the fiscal year 1998 research operations budget to increase
funding in the Human Space Flight appropriation for additional space station-
related requirements.

SPACE COMMUNI CATIONS SERVICES

NASA’s fiscal year 1998 appropriation for Space Communication Services can be
reduced by $10 milhon because an equivalent amount of fiscal year 1997 funds
is available to meet fiscal year 1998 requirements. NASA had requested
authority to transfer these funds to the Human Space Flight appropriation for
space station contingencies, but this transfer did not occur. A NASA official

 4                                              GAO/NSZAD-97-252R   1998 NASA Budget
B-277239
                                                          -_
stated that the funding identified was within the reserve a&our& of the
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TARS) replenishment budget line item of the
Mission Support appropriation. The official said that the TDRS program should
not be affected by the removal of the $10 million because few reserve funds
have been used so far and the remaining reserve funds should be sufficient to
cover contingencies for the rest of the program.

NASA’s Office of Space Flight believes that TDRS funding should not be
reduced by $10 million at this time. NASA’s strategy at the time of the
proposed ‘transfer of funds was that the loss of $10 million in the replenishment
line item would have been an acceptable risk only when measured against the
more urgent funding demands of the space station program. Although NASA
officials agree that the TDRS replenishment program is progressing very well, is
within budget, and appears to be on schedule, they stated that several
outstanding issues, such as development of a state-of-the-art antenna and the
spacecraft integration and test schedule, could impact program reserves.

CONSTRUCTION OF FACILITIES

NASA’s fiscal year 1998 request for Construction of Facilities can be reduced by
$20 million because an equivalent amount of fiscal year 1997 funds is available
to meet fiscal year 1998 requirements. NASA had requested authority to
transfer $27 million from the Construction of Facilities budget line item to the
Human Space Flight appropriation for space station contingencies, but this
transfer did not occur. A NASA official stated that the funding is available due
to deferral of projects to fiscal year 1998 ($7 million) and unobligated carryover
balances within the Environmental Compliance and Restoration program
($20 million). The unobligated carryover balances are available due to delays in
implementation of activities, resulting from longer-than-planned regulatory
actions, decisions, and delays stemming from the coordination requirements
among federal, state, and local agencies.

A NASA official stated that the $7 million for facility revitabzation was to fund
urgently needed utility and antenna repairs, and NASA was in a position to
obligate these funds in fiscal year 1997. These projects were being deferred to
fiscal year 1998 solely to help fund space station contingencies. The official
stated that, if fiscal year 1997 funding is reduced, funding available in fiscal year
1998 would most likely be used to fund the repairs, and other urgent fiscal year
1998 ir&astructure revitahzation projects of equal value would have to be
deferred to fiiscal year 1999. The remaining $20 million can be used to offset
Beal year 1998 requirements.

AGENCY COMMENTS

In commenting on a draft of this letter, NASA agreed, with the exceptions of
Cassini development and personnel and related costs, with the specific items
identised in a draft of this letter as potential sources of offsets. However,
5                                                GAOJNSLAD-97-252R   1998 NASA Budget
B-277239
NASA believed that adjustments to its budget should be mide through the
process it has established with congressional committees.

NASA’s specific comments on the Cassini development are discussed in the
letter where appropriate. The draft section on personnel and related costs is
not included in the m letter. NASA’s comments are reprinted in their entirety
in enclosure 1.

SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY

To ident@ potential reductionsj restrictions, and rescissions, we reviewed
selected parts of NASA’s fiscal year 1998 budget request, fiscal year 1997 and
prior years’ operating plans, carryover balances, and cost and obligations plans.
We interviewed program officials and budget analysts. We performed our work
at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; the Johnson Space Center, Houston,
Texas; and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. We conducted
our review from April to August 1997 in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards.



We are sending copies of t&s letter to the Administrator of NASA and the
Director of the Office of Management and Budget. We will also make copies
available to others on request.

Please contact me at (202) 5124841 if you or your staffs have any questions
concerning this letter. Major contributors to this letter are listed in
enclosure 2.




Allen Li
Associate Director, Defense
 Acquisitions Issues

Enclosures - 2




                                                GAO/NSIAD-9?-252R   1998 NASA Budget
B-277239
List of Congressional Committees

The Honorable Christopher Bond
Chairman
The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on VA, HUB, and Independent Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable John McCain
Chairman
The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
United States Senate

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
Chairman
The Honorable Louis Stokes
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on VA, HUB, and Jndependent Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Chairman
The Honorable George E. Brown, Jr.
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Science
House of Representatives




                                            GAO/NSLAD-97-252R   1998 NASA Budget
                         ENCLOSURE 1                                                               ENCLOSURE 1
                                                      COMMENTS FROM THE
                                                   NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND              ‘-   --
                     National Aeronautics and
                                                     SPACE ADMINISTRATION
                     Space Administration
                     Headquarters
                     Washington, DC 20!546-Oool




                     B                                                                    SEP 25 !gg
Reply TOAm of:


                     Mr. Allen Li
                     Associate Director
                     Defense Acquisitions Issues
                     National Security and International Affairs Division
                     United States General Accounting Office
                     Washington, DC 20548


                     Dear Mr. Li:

                     We appreciate the opportunity to comment on your draft report, NSIAD-97-252R. on
                     NASA’s FY 1998 budget. With only a few exceptions, we agree with the specific items
                     identified in your report as potential sources of offsets. As you know, we have previously
                     discussed these items with the Committees on Appropriations and our authorizing
                     committees in both the House and Senate. This is consistent with our long-standing
                     commitment to keep the Committees informed through a process which begins with detailed
                     staff briifings prior to the enactment of appropriations and continues after enactment with
                     the correspondence and briefings on the NASA Operating Plan.

                     The specific items of concern have to do with your statement regarding Cassini
                     development and the Personnel and Related Costs budget elements. With regard to the
                     FY 1997 funds for Personnel and Related Costs, NASA has already proposed through the
                     Operating Plan process that these funds be reallocated to Research Operations Support,
                     and that an offsetting reduction be made in our FY 1998 request. The report a&o stated
                     that Congress “can restrict the obligation of $9 million of funds for the Cassini Development
                     program until NASA determines whether excess fiscal year 1997 funds will be available to
                     meet fiscal year 1998 requirements.” We believe that the proper allocation and reallocation
                     of Cassini development funds should be made through the Operating Plan process: and not
                     through specific legislative constraints. The uncertainties and dynamics of research and
                     development programs are well-known, and they are clearly addressed through the
                     interaction between the Congress and NASA in the established Operating Plan process.


                     Sincerefy,
                 .


                     T* aicolm L. Peterson
                      Comptroller
                                                                       8    GAO/NSIAlS97-252R      1998 NASA Budget
ENCLOSURE 2                                                  ENCLOSURE 2

                   MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS LEtiR

NATIONAL SECURJ!IY AND INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS DMSION. WASHINGTON, D.C.

Frank Degnan
Richard Eiserman
Shirley Johnson
Larry Kiser
David Trimble

ATLANTA FIELD OFFICE

James Beard

LOS ANGELES F’DZLD OFFICE

Jeffew Webster
Alan Westheimer




(707260)

                                   9     GAO/NSIAD-97-252R   1998 NASA Budget
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