From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011
NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin today released a report examining the accuracy of the primary database NASA uses to evaluate its extensive real property assets. NASA owns approximately 5,000 buildings and structures such as wind tunnels, laboratories, launch pads, and test stands valued at more than $26.4 billion. However, 80 percent of NASA's facilities are 40 or more years old and many are in degraded condition. Given the extent and age of NASA's facilities, it is imperative that NASA managers have reliable data with which to manage these assets.
NASA managers consider several factors when determining whether to maintain, repair, consolidate, out-lease, sell, or demolish real property assets. These factors include: (1) utilization rate (how often facilities are used); (2) mission dependency (their importance in terms of supporting NASA's mission); and (3) physical condition.
Our review found that data in NASA's Real Property Management System (RPMS) relating to utilization, mission dependency, and condition were unreliable, largely because NASA Centers used inadequate processes to gather and update the information. During the audit, we inspected 34 NASA facilities and found that RPMS utilization data for 15 of these facilities did not reflect actual conditions. For example, several of the test stands we inspected at Marshall were listed as "Utilized" even though they had not been used for more than 10 years.
Similarly, with regard to mission dependency, we found the Agency lacked adequate guidance regarding what constitutes a "mission" and used a ratings scale that fails to make meaningful distinctions between facilities. As a result, 85 percent of the facilities at the Centers we visited were rated as "Mission Dependent" or "Mission Critical" and similar facilities such as Child Development Centers received different mission dependency ratings at different Centers.
Finally, in tracking the physical condition of its facilities NASA relies on cursory visual inspections performed by small teams of contractors under tight deadlines. Given the nature of these inspections, we question the accuracy of the RPMS information about physical condition of NASA facilities. Moreover, when we inspected several facilities at Glenn's Plum Brook Station during the audit, we found the recorded condition data was not accurate. For example, NASA rated the condition of a warehouse as "Fair" even though the facility is 67 years old and had clear signs of structural degradation including portions of the roof caving in.
To address these issues, we recommended that NASA establish processes to accurately capture the utilization rates of its facilities, revise existing procedures to include guidance for conducting mission dependency reviews, and reassess its contracts for physical condition assessments to provide contractors sufficient time and direction to ensure that the Agency receives comprehensive assessments.
NASA concurred with our recommendation to develop guidance for conducting mission dependency reviews and partially concurred with our recommendations to establish and refine processes for capturing utilization rates and conducting condition assessments, citing a lack of resources. However, we believe that any costs associated with improving the data will be minor and will lead to greater cost savings in the future by allowing Agency managers to more easily identify and support decisions to downsize its real property holdings.
The full report, which includes photographs of several of the facilities we inspected, can be found on the OIG's website at http://oig.nasa.gov/ under "Reading Room" or at the following link: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY11/IG-11-024.pdf
Please contact Renee Juhans at (202) 358-1220 if you have questions.
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