NASA suffers a rise in cost overruns on its key operations again in 2020, a challenge a new report says will be aggravated by the covid 19 pandemic.
The annual report is by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on key NASA operations. The report published on May 20, finds that costs of those operations increased by more than $1 billion in 2020. In the fifth year at a stretch, the overall costs rose.
The accumulative cost overrun of 20 key operations in expansion, defined as those with total costs of a minimum of $250 million, increased to more than $9.6 billion in the report.
The following three operations comprise $8 billion of that total, including $4.4 billion for JWST alone.
- The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
- Orion spacecraft
- Space Launch System
SLS and the Exploration Ground Systems program account for essentially all of the $1.1 billion in overruns in 2020. Tinier overruns on other programs, include the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar spacecraft and Low Boom Flight Demonstrator. These were offset by other operations falling in marginally under their budgets.
SLS alone accounts for approximately $990 million in cost escalations. About two-thirds of that rise came from NASA embracing a GAO proposal to reduce the initial baseline cost estimation. This is for SLS to correctly account for the effort that had been moved to later stages of the program.
Main NASA operations also have 19.7 years of aggregate schedule postponements, led by JWST’s 7.3 years. Those schedule postponements rose by 37 months in the newest assessment. This comprises 8 months each for SLS and Exploration Ground Systems and 7 months for JWST.
A Few of those newest postponements, GAO notes in its report, were because of the covid 19 pandemic. This is because of inadequate access to resources and interrupted supply chains. However, it warned that the overall cost and schedule influences of the covid 19 pandemics on key NASA operations have yet to measured.
“NASA’s most important projects in expansion have yet to feel the full magnitude of covid 19 impacts. Difficulties will remain as the covid 19 pandemic persists,” the GAO states in its report. “Almost all of the project’s report face some issues due to covid 19 in the last year.”
The GAO report does not make an estimation of the possible impacts of the covid 19 pandemics on those programs. However, a March statement by NASA’s Office of Inspector General makes an estimation that the total costs to the organization from the pandemic. The value may reach $3 billion, with around $1.6 billion of that coming from main operations like those pursued by the GAO.
“NASA will remain to examine and tackle the cost and schedule effects of covid 19 on its most important projects,” says Steve Jurczyk. Steve is NASA’s acting administrator; he states in an April 30 letter replying to the GAO’s review. “A final bookkeeping of the full effect of covid 19 on Agency activities will not be accessible. This is well following the Agency and its suppliers and partners are operational in a post-pandemic atmosphere.”
“Our previous work has taken this phase of the acquisition activity often exposes unexpected challenges. These difficulties are leading to cost escalation and schedule postponements,” the GAO states in its report.