Accounting as a Management Tool in Research and Data Analysis Programs

Finding: NASA does not use the extended records of its budgets andexpenditures as management tools to monitor the health of its R&A and DA programs. Moreover, the fragmented budget structure for R&DA makes it difficult for the scientific community to understandthe content of the program and for NASA to explain the content to federal budget decisionmakers.

Recommendation 6: NASA's science offices should establish a uniform procedure for tracking budgets and expenditures by the class of activities and the typesof organizations (including intramural and extramural laboratories, industry, and nonprofit entities)that are actually performing the work. These data should be gathered and reported annuallyand used to inform regular evaluations of R&DA activities (Recommendations 1 and 2). One approach would be to itemize the following elements in the budget: theoretical investigations;new instrument development; exploratory or supporting ground-based and suborbital research; interpretationof data from space missions; management of data; support of U.S. investigators who participatein international missions; and education, outreach, and public information. In addition,these data should be made publicly available and reported annually to the Office of Managementand Budget and to Congress.


This recommendation concerns management practices which NASA Headquartersvalued highly and had routinely employed when we had contractors;they traditionally compiled information and provided analysis alongthe lines recommended above. During the past 5 years, when most contractorshave been eliminated, and staff at NASA Headquarters has been trimmedby roughly 50%, we could not track such information. However, therecently signed contract with a single Headquarters-wide contractorfor peer reviews should be able to provide the necessary supportto create this useful management tool.

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