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NASA maintains unneeded facilities, finds IG

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NASA misspends maintenance funds on property that is underutilized or does not have a defined future mission use, says the agency's office of inspector general.

In a Feb. 12 report (.pdf) auditors found these underused properties cost the agency more than $43 million to maintain in fiscal 2011. The report identified 33 properties, from airfields and modern rocket test stands to post World War II vacuum chambers and wind tunnels, which NASA does make full use of or for which agency managers cannot define how it fits into future efforts.

One thermal vacuum chamber build in 1964 has never been used, says the report.

While some of these facilities can be deactivated and placed on a standby status, the report says deactivation costs for older facilities may be greater than disposal costs and that the agency should evaluate both options for all facilities.

Some of these facilities called out by auditors are in the set of properties and equipment NASA is looking to sell or rent at the Kennedy Space Center. These sale and rental plans are said to begin this summer.

Auditors identified a series of longstanding, interrelated problems they say have kept NASA from properly managing its infrastructure: inadequate funding, political pressure, agency culture and fluctuating strategic mission requirements .

The report says NASA has started several initiatives to better manage its infrastructure, such as a new facilities strategy and analytical framework to guide infrastructure decisions. These efforts are in their early stages so the OIG says it cannot determine how effective they will be.

 Auditors warn the changes may not be enough to overcome political obstacles. It calls out most recently an April 2012 attempt to close the airfield and other property at Ames's Moffett Field that generated "significant opposition from Congress… even though the agency had no current or future mission use for" the facilities.

For more:
- download the report, IG-13-008 (.pdf)
- watch a short video from the IG summarizing the report.

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