Credit: GAO

A just-released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report dives into the cost and schedule performance of NASA’s portfolio of major projects.

The overall finding is that NASA’s cost and schedule performance continued to improve, “but this trend may be difficult to sustain,” the GAO reports.

InSight Mars lander.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Current trend

According to the GAO, the current trend is driven by two main factors: (1) most projects are being executed within their cost and schedule baselines; and (2) new projects, which are less likely to have experienced cost and schedule growth, were added to the portfolio.


However, two projects—a Mars seismology instrument and lander and an upgrade to the NASA’s space communications network—experienced significant cost or schedule growth in 2016.

A third of the NASA projects that GAO appraised — including two of the most expensive ones (the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System) – “are at a stage when problems are most likely to occur.”

NASA’s Space Launch System.
Credit: NASA


Snapshot looks

The GAO report provides an annual snapshot for 2017 of how well NASA is planning and executing its major acquisition projects.

In March 2016, GAO found that projects continued a general positive trend of limiting cost and schedule growth, maturing technologies, and stabilizing designs, “but that NASA faced several challenges that could affect its ability to effectively manage its portfolio,” the GAO reported.

To read the full GAO report, and listen to a podcast regarding NASA: Assessments of Major Projects GAO-17-303SP (Published: May 16, 2017) – go to:

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