For decades, auditors with the Government Accountability Office, the NASA Inspector General, the White House Office of Management and Budget and other independent bodies have consistently offered several broad flaws in the way that big- government space projects are fielded and managed. They've found the same kinds of problems, over and over again, in almost every space project that has blown its budget and launch target.
With each successive audit, NASA and its contractors offer similar explanations about the unique complexity of the missions as well as pledges to make improvements. However, the mistakes are repeated.
The "basic reasons" he says are:
- Project leaders often lowball lifetime costs of the mission.
- Project leadership is overly optimistic about its ability to defeat technical challenges and get things done.
- Agency leadership repeatedly under-budgets reserve money, or at least enough of it.
Kelly concludes, "The pattern hurts NASA's long-term credibility and poses a serious threat to the overall U.S. space program in tight budget times."