NASA failing to stay in budget
Overspent by $1b, audit finds
WASHINGTON - NASA can land a spacecraft on a peanut-shaped asteroid 150 million miles away, but it doesn't come close to hitting the budget target for building its spacecraft, according to congressional auditors. NASA's top officials know it and even joke about it.
This week auditors found that on nine projects alone NASA is nearly $1.1 billion over cost estimates that were set in the last couple of years.
Congress' financial watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, reviewed NASA's newest big-money projects and found most were either over budget, late, or both. That doesn't include two of NASA's largest spending projects whose costs have wildly fluctuated and still aren't firm - replacements for the space shuttle fleet and Hubble Space Telescope.
Historically, overruns have caused NASA to run low on money, forcing it to shelve or delay other projects. Often, the agency just asks taxpayers for more money. In fact, NASA got $1 billion from the new stimulus package.
"Getting an extra infusion of money doesn't necessarily mean you have a capability to spend it well," said Cristina Chaplain, GAO's acquisitions chief who wrote the study.
A second GAO report used NASA as a prime example of bad practices in estimating costs. The space agency, which has a budget of about $18 billion, needs "a more disciplined approach" to its projects, the GAO said. NASA spending has been on GAO's "high risk" list since 1990. Its cost overrun problems will be the subject of a House Science Committee hearing today.