GAO warns of risks with NASA financial app

NASA's financial management system, built out of commercial components, is at risk for falling short of its goals if those components don't work together well, according to a new study by the General Accounting Office.

Although the space agency's Integrated Financial Management Program is replacing the separate, incompatible systems that NASA used to have at its 10 centers, NASA 'has not properly developed detailed system requirements' for the complex application, GAO said in its May 30 report.

GAO also said NASA has not analyzed the interdependencies among the software components that have already been selected for IFMP and those that have been proposed. The SAP R/3 system from SAP Public Services Inc. of Washington is the core of IFMP, which also uses software and services from Accenture LLP of Chicago, Computer Sciences Corp., IBM Corp. and Titan Systems Corp. of San Diego.

When building a system from off-the-shelf components, agencies need to know how to select components that will work together without expensive custom interfaces, the report said. It added, 'The alternative to such a structured and disciplined approach to building a commercial component-based system is trial and error, which is fraught with risk.'

The report recommended that NASA set a short-term strategy to review the financial management components it already has and a long-term strategy to analyze component interdependency.

IFMP, in the works for three years, is slated to become fully operational this month, the GAO reported. (Click for GCN coverage link) The leadership of the House and Senate science committees had asked GAO to study whether NASA was following best practices in acquiring and implementing the system's components.

In a 19-page response to the GAO report, NASA deputy administrator Frederick D. Gregory said that the space agency is already implementing some of GAO's recommendations, but its officials disagree with some of the criticism. NASA will implement a structured testing methodology on IFMP this fall, Gregory said.

The GAO investigators said that they plan a future report examining IFMP in the context of NASA's enterprise architecture.

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