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NASA Moves Toward Space Exploration May Harm Other Programs: GAO

By | October 16, 2006

      As NASA moves to realize President Bush’s vision for space exploration, other NASA programs may be harmed, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

      On the one hand, NASA did well in setting up a program to help realize Bush’s vision of returning to the moon, and then voyaging onward to Mars and more distant points in coming decades, the GAO report stated.

      NASA “created a directorate to implement the President’s new space exploration policy,” the GAO report noted approvingly.

      However, “Aerospace experts told us that they believe this may negatively affect other space exploration programs that have significant benefits.”

      In recent months, some analysts have criticized the Bush vision, saying that the president didn’t fund his vision of expeditions beyond near-Earth orbit, adding that funds are being found by wresting them from critical science and R&D programs.

      “Changes to existing programs include NASA’s restructuring of its aeronautics research program,” the GAO report stated. The nonpartisan watchdog agency also criticized other agencies such as the FAA for some of their actions affecting the aerospace industry.

      Congress established the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry in 2001, the GAO noted. But “Federal agencies have taken few, if any, actions to address other [commission] recommendations, such as creating a government-wide management structure for aerospace,” the GAO report continued.

      Often, shortcomings stem from a significant lack of money appropriated by Congress.

      “Challenges remain for federal agencies in further addressing the Commission’s recommendations, including dealing with difficult budgetary trade-offs and collaborating on actions involving multiple agencies,” the GAO asserted.

      “For example, federal agencies may have to give priority to some programs that address Commission recommendations at the expense of other programs because of budget limitations,” the report noted.

      In addition, “with multiple agencies involved in the U.S. aerospace industry, a lack of coordination among them, aerospace companies, and universities could result in duplication and inefficient resource leveraging,” the report found.

      The GAO prepared the 85-page report for Rep. Jerry F. Costello of Illinois, ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aviation subcommittee.

      The report that is entitled “U.S. Aerospace Industry: Progress in Implementing Aerospace Commission Recommendations, and Remaining Challenges” can be viewed in entirety at on the Web and clicking on Reports and Testimony.

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