NASA Advisory Council Findings from the International Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force

Press Release From: NASA HQ
Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

December 19, 2001

Dr. Daniel R. Mulville
Acting Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546

Dear Dr. Mulville:

The International Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force reported its findings to the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) at a meeting on November 6, 2001. The IMCE Task Force was chartered to perform an independent external review and assessment of cost and budget and to provide recommendations on how to ensure that the International Space Station (ISS) can provide the maximum benefit to the U.S. taxpayers and the International Partners within the Administration's budget request. The NAC discussed the IMCE report at a second meeting on December 6-7, 2001. Although the IMCE Task Force was not charged with considering the international aspects of the ISS program, we believe that the response of the International Partners to the IMCE report should be taken into account; consequently, the NAC invited comments/views from the ISS Partners and others, which were presented at the December 6-7 meeting.

The NAC unanimously and completely endorses the findings and specific recommendations of the IMCE Task Force report (Enclosed) and adds the comments and perspectives listed below. We are grateful to the IMCE Task Force for their dedication, thoughtful analysis and hard work.

The IMCE Report Proposes a Strategy to Restore Confidence in the ISS Program

The International Space Station is the largest and most challenging international engineering project ever undertaken. After years of careful preparation, completion of the ISS construction phase is imminent. Dedicated efforts by NASA centers, industrial contractors, and the ISS International Partners have begun to realize an impressive technical success. Nonetheless, the viability of the entire international human space flight enterprise is being undermined by a loss of confidence in NASA's ability to exercise adequate management and cost discipline in the ISS program. The deficiencies in NASA's management and financial control of the ISS program identified in the IMCE report cannot be excused and must not be ignored. Resolving these deficiencies will require major restructuring of the management, budget, infrastructure, and staffing of NASA's human space flight enterprise.

The NAC recommends that NASA focus on executing the "U.S. Core Complete" configuration defined in the President's FY 2002 Budget Blueprint. The NAC agrees with the widely held view that the U.S. Core Complete configuration, which supports only a three-person crew, is far from optimal as an end-state for the ISS. Nevertheless, no commitments to augment the U.S. Core Complete configuration should be made until NASA's restructuring and consolidation efforts restore confidence within the NAC, the Administration, and Congress in the management and financial controls of the ISS program. This "period of consolidation" can last no more than two years.

The NAC recommends that during the period of consolidation, NASA demonstrate to an independent panel its progress in resolving the identified deficiencies in management and financial control. If NASA agrees, the NAC could establish an ad-hoc subcommittee to fulfill this independent review function. Progress should be reported against a specific set of goals, metrics, and milestones. The NAC recommends that the starting point for this set of metrics and milestones be the enclosed set of "ISS Goals for the Consolidation Period." These goals link together the Specific Recommendations of the IMCE, the further deliberations of the NAC, and NASA's own "Core Values" as expressed in its Strategic Plan.

The NAC emphasizes that the ISS Goals for the Consolidation Period in no way are meant to dilute or substitute for the Specific Recommendations of the IMCE, which the NAC endorses fully. The Specific Recommendations are the "game plan" that NASA must follow to regain program credibility, the goals are the "scorecard" against which NASA should be judged, and there must be an independent "scorekeeper."

Throughout the period of consolidation, NASA should consult with the ISS International Partners to ensure ongoing understanding of the progress in meeting the milestones for the U.S. Core Complete configuration as well as the associated re-establishment of credibility.

The Goals of the U.S. International Space Station Program Are Not Well-Defined

The NAC notes that neither short-term nor long-term priorities for the United States' uses of the ISS have been firmly and clearly established. The relative priorities of exploration, international cooperation, research, education, and commerce have not been clarified. Given this lack of clarity, it is not surprising that there is little public understanding of why the United States' is building the ISS.

The focus of the ISS program must now change from development and construction to operation and utilization. Indeed, this change is overdue. The IMCE recommended that scientific research be the primary driver of U.S. ISS usage. The IMCE stated that of the many scientific areas where the ISS can make a contribution, the investigation of the biological, physical, sociological, and psychological limits on long-term, complex human activity in space is the one area that uniquely requires the ISS. The NAC believes that if intelligently led by a broad research program on the ground, this area of research can form the core of a widely accepted primary rationale for ISS operations.

The NAC recommends that NASA announce a small number of ordered priorities for U.S. scientific usage of the ISS immediately. The priorities should be addressed in order of importance in the operations of the ISS and should be used in the design of the management approach to the operations and utilization phase. The IMCE recommended that science be represented in ISS management as the Deputy Program Manager, and the NAC concurs with this recommendation.

The IMCE Strategy Raises Serious Issues for the ISS International Partners

Since the Terms of Reference for the IMCE did not include international considerations, the discussions and recommendations below are those of the NAC.

The strategy proposed in the IMCE report raised issues for the ISS International Partners (hereinafter, Partners) that go beyond NASA's ability to address alone. The Partners have unanimously declared that the U.S. Core Complete configuration does not fulfill the U.S. commitment to the "Assembly Complete" configuration defined in the Intergovernmental Agreement reached by the Partner nations, and in the Memoranda of Understanding between NASA and the Partner agencies. The Partners characterize the U.S. commitment to a period of consolidation aimed at executing only the U.S. Core Complete configuration as a material change, thereby requiring formal consultation. In addition, the Partners have expressed a desire for the United States' to "signal" its intentions to return eventually to a six/seven-person crew capability. In this regard, the NAC recommends that NASA seek clarification of the U.S. Government's position concerning the possibility of an eventual enhancement of the capabilities of the ISS beyond U.S. Core Complete and of possible paths by which such enhancements might be achieved.

The NAC recommends that NASA continue ongoing formal and informal discussions with all of its Partners. The discussions should include plans to inform the Partners of NASA's progress in restoring credibility in its management of the ISS as well as plans to consider cooperative strategies to augment the U.S. Core Complete configuration. The NAC believes that the three-person U.S. Core Complete configuration is a seriously inadequate end-state, and recommends that NASA and its Partners seek ways to realize the full potential of the ISS for research and other uses.

The NAC recommends that throughout the period of consolidation, NASA preserve the option of an eventual return to the capabilities represented by the Assembly Complete configuration. This will require continued funding of certain key elements that would otherwise be deleted in the U.S. Core Complete configuration.

NASA Cannot Afford to Delay

NASA is facing an urgent management challenge. The IMCE report communicated its seriousness and proposes a strategy forward. We believe that if the IMCE strategy is supported by Congress and the Administration, NASA could indeed restore confidence in its management and financial control of the ISS program, but only if it acts on the IMCE recommendations without delay. Otherwise, the ISS could well end up being viewed by the United States and world public as not meeting its extraordinary full potential.

We have never known NASA to fail to rise to a challenge once it becomes clear. The challenge is clear.


Original Signed By:

Charles F. Kennel
NASA Advisory Council


IMCE Report

Enclosure to Letter from NASA Advisory Council Regarding the International Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force Report

ISS Goals for the Consolidation Period

The table below lists 14 goals for the ISS program, against which its performance should be evaluated during the period of consolidation. The goals are organized into four categories, aligned with NASA's Cross-Cutting Processes, and are linked to the IMCE Task Force's Specific Recommendations (S.R.), the further deliberations of the NAC, and NASA's own Core Values as expressed in its Strategic Plan. [While the Specific Recommendations form the "game plan," the goals are the "score sheet."]

Manage Strategically
1. NASA must maintain a focus on technical excellence and crew safety. NASA Strategic Plan - Core Values
2. NASA must develop a process to identify, report and balance the tension between near and longer term program goals. S.R.3b and manage the ISS Program to cost and schedule as well as fiscal year budgets
3. NASA must adopt a management approach for ISS, which allows for direct program control of personnel resources, as well as streamlined management visibility, reporting, control and accountability. S.R.1 Establish the ISS Program Office separate from, but residing at JSC, reporting to a new Associate Administrator (AA) for the ISS.
4. NASA must adopt a contractor management approach that simplifies the contract relationships, and allows the program direct visibility into and control of contractor performance. S.R.2 Consolidate prime and non-prime contracts into a minimum number of resulting contracts all reporting to the program office.
5. NASA must develop a robust process, supported by modern MIS tools, to create, update and make visible cost and earned value estimates independent of contractor proposals. S.R.3 (included within) Establish a state-of-the-art management information system. Establish a state-of-the-art planning and control system, including independent cost estimating capability.
Provide Aerospace Products and Capabilities
6. NASA must identify, standardize and control the design baseline for U.S. Core Complete, and [independently] verify the associated budget and schedule. S.R.3a Develop a life cycle technical baseline
7. In the absence of events beyond the control of the program, NASA must execute the program to U.S. Core Complete over the next 2 years. S.R.4 Consider revising the ISS crew rotation period to 6 months and reducing the Space Shuttle flight rate accordingly. S.R.5 Continue to examine Strategic Resource Review and Institutional cost reductions.
8. NASA must clearly define an achievable expanded end-state capable of achieving the full science and research potential of the ISS, and develop an independently verified budget and schedule to accompany that expanded end-state.

S.R.6 Develop a credible roadmap starting with U.S. Core Complete and leading to an end-state that achieves expanded research potential. Include gate decisions based on demonstrated ability to execute the program.

S.R.7 Identify funding to maintain critical activities for potential enhancement options.

9. NASA must respect the provisions for design interfaces and operational accommodations of the International Partners, as stipulated in the IGA and MOUs, and as negotiated and interpreted by the U.S. Government. NAC deliberations.
Generate Knowledge
10. NASA must develop and implement approaches to maximize the science and research utilization of the ISS for the U.S. Core Complete station. S.R.11 Provide additional crew time for scientific research through the use of extended duration Shuttle and overlap of Soyuz missions.
11. NASA must establish a science and research utilization management structure and process that ensures that the interests of the science and research users - whose activities are the driving purpose of the ISS - have a strong voice in management decisions. S.R.12 Create a Deputy Program Manager for Science position in the ISS Program Office. Assign a science community representative with dual responsibility to the Program and the Headquarters Office of Biological & Physical Research
12. NASA must establish the science and research priorities for the ISS, and develop a plan allocating available financial resources for research infrastructure consistent with these priorities.

S.R.8 Establish research priorities. The Task Force is unanimous in that the highest research priority should be solving problems associated with long-duration human space flight, including the engineering required for human support mechanisms.

S.R.9 Provide the Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM) and centrifuge as mandatory to accomplish top priority biological research. Availability as late as FY08 is unacceptable.

S.R.10 Establish a research plan consistent with the priorities, including a prudent level of reserves, and compliant with the approved budget

Communicate Knowledge
13. NASA must develop and implement a plan to communicate the results of the ISS to the scientific and research community, and more generally to the American public. NAC deliberations.
14. NASA must communicate progress towards accomplishment of these goals to the NAC, the Executive Office of the President, and to the Congress. NAC deliberations.

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