Credit: NASA

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects.

This is the GAO’s 12th annual look at the status of NASA’s major projects, finding that costs grew for the third year in a row. “NASA’s acquisition management is on our High Risk List,” the GAO observes.

According to the GAO report, expect to see cost increases and schedule delays for major programs to get worse. “For example, delays are likely for the Artemis I mission, NASA’s next step in returning astronauts to the moon in 2024. NASA is also planning other lunar-related efforts that will become major projects. These efforts are complex and could face significant cost increases and schedule delays.”

Credit: NASA

This new GAO report provides snapshot profiles of 24 of NASA’s major projects.

Mars 2020

For example, the just-issued report looks at the Mars 2020 project, noting it has encountered development cost growth of almost $360 million, which exceeds the 15 percent congressional notification threshold at a critical point in the development process when problems are most commonly found and schedules tend to slip. This cost growth was due to multiple development difficulties, delayed deliveries, and higher than anticipated procurement costs.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


As of February 2020, the rover had shipped to Kennedy Space Center to begin preparing for July-August launch, the majority of the project’s flight hardware had been delivered and many of the project’s top technical risks were closed. However, the project is tracking a risk that components of its most complex development—the Sample and Caching Subsystem—could be late.

Performance: expected to worsen

Overall, what the GAO found is that NASA’s portfolio of major projects continued to experience significant cost and schedule growth this year and the performance is expected to worsen.

Space Launch System (SLS) Credit: NASA/MSFC

Since GAO last reported on the portfolio in May 2019, cost growth was approximately 31 percent over project baselines—the third consecutive year that cost growth has worsened after a period of decline. The average launch delay was 12 months, compared to 13 months last year.

“GAO has made a number of recommendations over the last 5 years to improve NASA’s acquisition of major projects. NASA has implemented changes in response to many of these recommendations, although 17 recommendations have not yet been fully addressed. NASA generally agreed with the findings in this report,” states the GAO.

For the full report, go to:

For a quick look of findings, go to:

Lastly, go to this GAO podcast on the report at:

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