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FYI Number 106: August 17, 2001

Independent Panel to Review Space Station Cost, Management

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" the 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 fyi@aip.org (301) 209-3094

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