Projections of continued cost escalation to the International
Space Station (ISS), revealed this spring, have prompted NASA
Administrator Daniel Goldin to establish an independent task
force to review "the budget and management challenges facing"
program, according to a NASA press release. The 19-member ISS
Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force (IMCE), announced by
Goldin on July 31, will be chaired by former Martin Marietta
president Thomas Young, and include several Nobel laureates.
The revelations of potential cost overruns exceeding $4 billion
prompted a series of congressional hearings, and the
Administration responded to the threatened cost growth by
proposing to redirect funding from some as-yet-incomplete station
elements. While those elements designated as US "core complete"
through 2004 would be funded, money would be shifted from
habitation and propulsion modules, a crew return vehicle, and
research racks in order to help make up the shortfall. This
would reduce the number of permanent crew on the station from
seven to three, resulting in less crew time available for science
experiments. Exchanges between Goldin and Members of Congress,
as well as House and Senate appropriations language on this
subject, can be found in FYIs #59,
#63 and #103.
"Since April, we've been working to select a team of outstanding
innovators in the fields of science, engineering, finance and
business to advise NASA and the Administration how to maximize
the scientific returns on the station, while living within the
guidelines of the President's budget," Goldin stated, according
to the press release. "The financial management of the
International Space Station needs an overhaul, but we're going to
do it in a way that doesn't sacrifice safety."
The task force is divided into separate groups addressing issues
of science, engineering, and business and finance, with each
group comprising experts in that field. Members of the Science
Group are: Robert Richardson of Cornell University, who shared
the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics; Rae Silver of Columbia
University; Richard Roberts of New England Biolabs, who shared
the 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine; and Michael DeBakey of the
Baylor College of Medicine. The task force will be aided in its
work by Financial Management and Cost Analysis Support Teams.
"The panel has been empowered to leave no stone unturned,"
Goldin declared. "We have experts in all fields that have the capacity
to dig deep to help us restructure the business and financial
approach of this program."
Noting that the revelations of cost growth "disturbed many in
Congress and undermined our confidence in the Agency's budget
practices," House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
(R-NY) praised the establishment of the task force. He
cautioned, however, that "the Task Force faces a difficult job
and has little time to do it."
By November 1, the task force will present its findings to the
NASA Advisory Council, which will then forward recommendations to
the Administrator. The first meeting of the review panel will be
held at NASA Headquarters on August 20-21, with the first day's
session open to the public. For more information on attending,
call Kirsten Larson or Ray Castillo at 202-358-0243/1600.
Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics