NASA's James Webb Space Telescope: Knowledge-Based Acquisition Approach Key to Addressing Program Challenges: GAO-06-634

July 2006
GAO Reports;7/13/2006, p1
Government Documents
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is being designed to explore the origins and nature of the universe. It should allow scientists to look deeper into space--and thus farther back in time--than ever before. The program, however, has experienced cost growth of more than $1 billion and its schedule has slipped nearly 2 years. NASA recently restructured the program and now anticipates a launch no sooner than June 2013. Because of the cost and schedule problems, under the Comptroller General's authority, we reviewed the JWST program to determine the extent to which this procurement follows NASA acquisition policy and GAO best practices for ensuring that adequate product knowledge is used to make informed investment decisions Although the JWST program recently revised its acquisition strategy to conform to NASA's acquisition policies, the program still faces considerable challenges because it has not fully implemented a knowledge-based approach, which our past work has shown is often a key factor in program success. In a recent report, we made recommendations that NASA take steps to ensure that projects follow a knowledge-based approach for product development. NASA concurred and revised its acquisition policy. When we initiated our work and before the JWST program's recently revised acquisition strategy, program officials intended to have NASA commit to program start, which is the end of the formulation phase and the beginning of the implementation phase, with immature technologies, according to best practices, and without a preliminary design. During our review, we discussed these shortfalls with NASA officials, and they revised their acquisition strategy to conform to NASA policy. However, the current strategy still does not fully incorporate a knowledge-based approach which ensures that resources match requirements in terms of knowledge, time, and money before program start. If program officials follow the current plan, the maturity of key technologies may not be adequately tested prior to program start. In addition, it appears the program will not have sufficient funding resources to ensure the program's success. In light of the fiscally constrained environment the federal government and NASA will face in the years ahead, adopting a knowledge-based approach will not only increase the JWST program's chances for success but also lay the foundation for comparison between competing programs.


Related Articles

  • Space Shuttle: Actions Needed to Better Position NASA to Sustain Its Workforce Through Retirement: GAO-05-230. Li, Allen // GAO Reports;3/9/2005, p1 

    The President's vision for space exploration (Vision) directs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to retire the space shuttle following completion of the International Space Station, planned for the end of the decade. The retirement process will last several years and impact...

  • NASA: Sound Management and Oversight Key to Addressing Crew Exploration Vehicle Project Risks: GAO-06-1127T. Li, Allen // GAO Reports;9/28/2006, p1 

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to spend nearly $230 billion over the next two decades implementing the President's Vision for Space Exploration (Vision) plans. In July 2006, GAO issued a report that questioned the program's affordability, and particularly, NASA's...

  • Medium Launch Transition Strategy Leverages Ongoing Investments but Is Not Without Risk.  // GAO Reports;11/22/2010, preceding p1 

    The article presents a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the U.S. on the launch services program (LSP) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It notes that the program aims to address risks and ensures the success of the last planned Delta II...

  • NASA Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects.  // GAO Reports;3/2/2009, preceding p1 

    The article presents the report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concerning the plans of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to invest billions in science and exploration space flight initiatives. The report indicates the challenges facing NASA in...

  • NASA Needs to Better Assess Contract Termination Liability Risks and Ensure Consistency in Its Practices. Chaplain, Cristina T. // GAO Reports;7/12/2011, p1 

    The article presents a study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concerning the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contract terminations. It states that the proposed cancellation of NASA's Constellation program can have possible significant effects in...

  • THE ISS -- TAKING STOCK. Baker, David // Spaceflight;Oct2015, Vol. 57 Issue 10, p376 

    The article discusses developments in the operation of the International Space Station (ISS) as of October 2015. Also cited are a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the cost of operating the ISS in 2015-2020, the delay made by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space...

  • NASA Delays First SLS Launch Until No Later Than November 2018. Host, Pat // Defense Daily;8/28/2014, p7 

    The article reports the move by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in late August 2014 to delay the launching of its Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift, exploration class rocket until no later than November 2018. The agency also conducted a Key Decision Point C...

  • HOBBLE'S HOPE: I, ROBOT. Kluger, Jeffrey // Time International (South Pacific Edition);6/7/2004, Issue 22, p11 

    The article reports that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of United States is seriously working on a project aimed at increasing the life span of Hubble Space Telescope. The NASA plans to develop a robot that could be the remote-control savior of the endangered...

  • Eye on infinity. Carroll, Chris // National Geographic;Dec2003, Vol. 204 Issue 6, p54 

    NASA's hubble space telescope, with a new camera installed in March 2002, reveals the cosmos more clearly than ever before. Installation of a new power-control unit forced an unprecedented and nerve-racking shutdown of the entire satellite— a move comparable to a surgeon stopping a...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics