National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Agency Reinvention Activities

Getting Started and Motivating Participation

Immediately upon assuming his duties in May 1992, NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin initiated a number of innovations aimed at making the agency more efficient within a set of mission objectives. This exercise took the form of an internal review. The aims of the review were consistent with those of the National Performance Review (NPR) initiative, and helped to determine NASA's greatest potential efficiencies. This early initiative, called the Blue and Red team review, had the effect of giving NASA a head start in identifying ways to make NASA processes better, faster, and cheaper.

The Blue teams reviewed NASA programs to look for significant savings, while Red teams acted as devil's advocates to ensure all possible options were examined. A separate Program/Project Planning team reviewed the agency's activities and procedures to recommend improvements to reduce costs and technical risks in the future. At the same time, NASA undertook a series of procurement initiatives targeted at streamlining acquisitions, reforming incentive contracting, assessing contractor liability requirements, and improving contract management and grant processes.

Similarly, the Red, Blue, and institutional teams identified a number of weaknesses in existing program management and procurement procedures which contributed to unexpected cost growth in the past. The teams developed remedies that provide the basis for management and procurement reforms upon which NASA has embarked.

In a parallel exercise, an internal Vision team was commissioned, and a series of town meetings were held to make NASA's aeronautics and space research more relevant to people's daily lives. More than 4,500 people attended, and thousands more watched via satellite broadcast--a unique opportunity for public input. Based on the information from these meetings, representatives from across the agency convened to develop a new vision statement. The statement describes what NASA does, why, and how, and redefines agency priorities and mission objectives for the 1990s and beyond. A strategic planning exercise in April 1993 coincided with the beginning of the NPR. The hallmark of this effort was a proposed strategic organization--the Senior Management Group--with the charter to develop strategies for managing institutional change within NASA.

A number of procurement and management reforms are presently underway as a result of the Red and Blue team exercises. These reforms will be tested and evaluated. Accordingly, many have been initiated as pilot tests to assess their effectiveness for across- the-board implementation. Improvements presently under review include management and procurement reforms in both processes and policies.

NASA was searching for ways to improve and measure management effectiveness, program efficiency, and mission accomplishment. At NASA's request, the Inspector General conducted a study of NASA's functional management review process. The study indicated that the agency often lacked effective measurement practices. In addition, there was limited authority to affect improvements. Based on these results, the administrator directed an initiative to develop a joint partnership process for ensuring excellence in agency management. To motivate participation in this initiative, an agencywide task team was formed. The team focused on empowerment, joint partnership, agreement, and measuring results to ensure continual improvement.

The team, chaired by NASA's associate deputy administrator, includes representatives from headquarters functional managers and program offices, eight field installations, the Internal Control Coordinator's staff, and the Inspector General. The team's joint partnership approach has led to new methods for evaluating management effectiveness, program efficiency, and mission accomplishments for NASA's administrative and management programs. An added benefit from this initiative is improved implementation of the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA).

NASA has five reinvention laboratories involving improvements in management, procurement, Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE), and Space Shuttle processing at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Of the two MTPE laboratories, one involves developing a model Earth science data system that will provide a strong scientific base to enhance understanding of natural and human-induced changes in the environment. The federal government, in turn, will draw upon this scientific base to formulate policy and make decisions concerning the quality of life on Earth in the face of global changes. The second involves developing and using the most efficient processes to manage the many parallel activities involved in acquiring MTPE data from space.

In 1989, the need for reduced Space Shuttle processing time was recognized when demonstrated flight rate capability was three per year and flight rate projections were increasing rapidly to 12 per year by 1991. It was clear that the way the Space Shuttle was processed had to change and change quickly. It would be necessary to reduce shuttle processing times from a 79 day average to less than 45 days--a reduction of nearly 50 percent.

Following the Challenger accident in 1986, initial processing activities at Kennedy Space Center were overly conservative in order to maintain safety. The challenge, then, was to maintain safety while reducing processing time. The solution was to initiate a systematic approach with strong management commitment. Teams were formed throughout the agency and were authorized to initiate changes within the scope of their responsibilities. The agency's efforts to reinvent itself have taken on a greater motivation with the advent of the NPR. Moreover, the President's decision in June 1993 to support a redesigned space station program offers a very significant case in point for application of these ideas. More than just a redesign of one program, the President has called for NASA to reinvent itself and to adopt new methods for meeting its goals in the future and for the NPR to work with NASA in this effort. NASA has already significantly reduced costs in the Space Station program and is moving toward the removal of an entire level of management in its major programs.

Functional Management Reinvention Lab

NASA has used a centralized oversight approach, involving varying techniques to identify and correct administrative and management problems. New approaches are needed to measure effectiveness, lead to innovative improvements, and foster commitment to correct and improve programs.

The Functional Management Reinvention Lab shifts accountability for assessing the adequacy of administrative and management programs, including compliance with established policy and regulations, from headquarters to responsible line managers. The role of headquarters becomes one of policy development, guidance, and implementation oversight and of conducting spot checks as needed or as requested.

This new self-assessment process will eliminate duplicate audit activity. The existing process has been separate and distinct from the internal control review and reporting requirements established by the FMFIA. The agency FMFIA vulnerability assessment questionnaires have been a compliance requirement for line managers rather than an effective management tool. NASA is attempting to move away from the focus on complying with rules to providing guiding principles and authorizing line managers to conduct self-assessments for evaluating the adequacy of these programs.

By using a joint approach to develop and administer a self-assessment program, managers take ownership of their processes and improve communications. This should encourage managers to share good ideas. In an atmosphere of trust and non-retribution, NASA anticipates line managers will be more comfortable identifying high-risk issues for immediate correction.

Procurement Reinvention Lab

The objective of the procurement reinvention lab is to develop a model procurement process that can be duplicated, as appropriate, at all NASA centers and eventually at other federal agencies. This lab will study all aspects of the acquisition process to identify and create more efficient systems and processes to accomplish procurement. The lab consists of 52 employees in the Grants, Small Purchases, Acquisitions and Review Branches within the Office of Procurement at NASA headquarters.

The Office of Procurement is responsible for procuring goods and services for headquarters organizations. In fiscal year 1992, the Headquarters Acquisition Division obligated $808 million in contracts, grants, and interagency transfers. This represents 6 percent of total NASA acquisitions. This organization is in an excellent position to conduct a procurement reinvention lab without the typical bureaucratic burdens that hamper the process today.

The Procurement Reinvention Lab considered three approaches. The first was to develop a process independent of any federal laws and regulations affecting procurement. This approach would clearly require the authority to waive public laws affecting competition, socio-economic preference programs, annual funding restraints, disputes, and protest rights. In addition, some agency authorities, such as General Services Administration's (GSA) authority for automated data processing (ADP) and telecommunications, would need to be waived. However, NASA must still maintain accountability to the taxpayer. The second, a more moderate approach, would accept some of the laws that currently exist, such as the Competition in Contracting Act and the Small Business Act. This model would involve more emphasis on streamlining internal procedures. The third would use the existing procurement system, as authorized by federal laws and regulations, and reinvent how NASA internally implements the existing regulations.

As guidance from the NPR was provided, it became apparent that the most radical approach was not feasible without specific authorizing legislation that would allow exemptions to specific laws. Although such authorizing language may be developed as a result of some of the initiatives of the NPR, such enabling legislation will not initially be available to use on this project. The model selected for NASA is a combination of the latter two options. It is NASA's intent to change the way it has been doing business at headquarters by revising internal procedures and seeking waivers from other agencies when they impede or add no value to NASA's procurement system. NASA will not rule out seeking specific legislative changes when it is determined to be in the public interest to do so.

NASA Lab to Enhance the Accessibility of Earth Science Data

The objective of the MTPE data accessibility reinvention laboratory is to develop a model Earth science data system that will be easily accessed by federal government policymakers and other international partners. MTPE data concerns natural and human-induced changes in global and regional environments and should provide a strong scientific basis from which policy is formulated and decisions are made relating to the future of human life on Earth. The system's operation costs will be sufficiently low to encourage widespread domestic and international use.

The Earth Observation System Data and Information system (EOSDIS) is the data archive and distribution system NASA is building to support MTPE. EOSDIS will assimilate remote sensing data acquired from space and will generate, archive, catalog, and make available a database of measurements needed for global change research. When fully developed, EOSDIS will be the largest civilian data system ever built and will be the core of the Global Change Data and Information System (GCDIS) developed by the federal government.

The EOSDIS Core System (ECS) contract will provide for the development of the essential elements of the EOSDIS system, including support for the Distributed Active Archive Centers, the customer interface of EOSDIS. The ECS is being procured under the GSA Trail Boss Program and is the largest such program approval yet provided to NASA. This streamlined approach to procurement of information resources and services vests greater implementation authority in NASA based on intensive procurement training and certification provided in advance to the NASA project management team.

The contract requires system refreshment and technology infusion as the MTPE matures. Through the use of prototype systems (the first of which will be in place next year, about four years prior to the first launch of an EOS spacecraft), the program can adjust direction to take best advantage of technical developments in the industry, as well as to adapt to the needs of the policy-making and scientific communities as human understanding of the factors of global change improve.

The contract emphasizes performance through inclusion of a Total Systems Performance Responsibility clause. Under this provision, the contractor cannot earn additional fees for overruns of estimated cost agreed to at the beginning of the contract. The EOSDIS program is entering the implementation stage, so it is premature to assess the final value of these measures. However, the NASA administrator expects that these steps will enhance the responsiveness of the program to the user communities and will provide a stronger foundation for ensuring the development program is carried out within budget and in accordance with contract requirements. In addition, the commitment to maintaining reasonable operational costs over the life of the system will be a significant encouragement for research use.

NASA expects that as the system matures and the results of early-phase prototyping become evident, additional changes will be made in managing the program to build on the things which work best. The NASA administrator expects that the "build a little, test a little" approach will result in an EOSDIS which is responsive, flexible, and within budget.

Lab to Improve Instrument Integration for Mission to Planet Earth

The objective of the MTPE instrument integration reinvention laboratory is to develop a model set of processes for improving the efficiency of the instrument development process for Earth science-- getting the right sensor onto the observation platform quickly, and in a manner which provides maximum benefit to the user. Traditionally, this has been the critical path in operational programs. The project will explore innovative management techniques and cooperation with outside partners to enhance the effectiveness of this process.

NASA's Mission to Planet Earth is among its highest priority programs. MTPE is being performed to characterize the global environment over an extended period of time. It will depict ongoing natural and human-induced global change through the use of satellites, aircraft, and associated technologies. Using the unique perspective of space and high altitude atmospheric vehicles, NASA will provide essential contributions to national and international assessments of the future of the environment, both on global and regional scales. These assessments will be sufficiently reliable to provide the strongest scientific basis for government policies designed to sustain development and manage the environment. This will be accomplished in partnership with the other federal agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, as well as the international participants in the Committee on Earth Observing Satellites.

The implementation of MTPE will take place over an extended period of time. It began with the launch of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite and METEOR/Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer in 1991 and TOPEX/Poseidon in 1992, and will continue into the next century . With the scope this program and the urgency of these national requirements, the instrument complement must be developed in the most effective manner possible.

The instrument pre-development reviews for the approved MTPE missions have been extensive, incorporating contributions of a wide range of scientists and industry sources, as well as NASA expertise. To take advantage of new capabilities in the small satellite arena and to draw upon the experience which is developing in this arena in industry and in other federal agencies, the project is developing a comprehensive database of small satellite capabilities. This database could support specific, focused missions with very short development timelines to augment the existing MTPE program.

Finally, the management of MTPE has been consolidated, both at headquarters and at the lead NASA Center, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Headquarters has established an Advanced Technology Development Office. This office is charged with ensuring the incorporation of the latest technology developments into the various MTPE missions as they are planned.

The MTPE program is entering the implementation stage, so it is premature to assess the final value of these measures. However, the prospects are good that the development program is more efficient and the way in which the various parallel support activities are managed is considerably improved. A number of these innovations have already been initiated. As the program for development of subsequent MTPE spacecraft matures, NASA expects to see further enhancements.

NASA Shuttle and Payload Processing Lab at Kennedy Space Center

This reinvention activity involved developing more efficient launch site operations, reducing required resources, lowering energy consumption, decreasing environmental impacts, and developing long-term operations plans. Under this initiative, a plan was established to schedule eight Shuttle missions per year and to do it with a 25 percent reduction in cost. More than 200 facility energy surveys were completed resulting in a 10 percent energy reduction with a goal of 20 percent by the year 2000. Thirty- two conservation projects were begun which have resulted in exceeding a self-imposed 30 percent goal of hazardous waste reduction.

Payload processing initiatives have resulted in significant reductions in processing time and manpower while increasing customer satisfaction. Schedule time was reduced 21 percent, manpower was reduced 33 percent, and the number of problems were reduced 31 percent over three comparable Spacelab module missions. These reductions were attributed to improved planning and coordination between Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Requirements were defined early. The KSC and MSFC agreed on delivery schedules for hardware, software, and drawings. Over 100 processing changes recommended by the Spacelab Process Action teams for activities such as hardware staging, Spacelab integration and testing, and work authorization development were implemented. Initiatives to improve payload customer satisfaction have resulted in improving NASA's understanding of customer needs and the customer's understanding of the payload processes.

Looking Ahead

The NASA Functional Management and Procurement Reinvention Lab efforts are just getting started and changes have just begun. However, brainstorming sessions have already resulted in worthwhile suggestions in the planning stage of the project. Within three years, self-assessments will have been conducted at all locations, and an evaluation of first year results will be conducted at the end of fiscal year 1994. Refinements to the process will be continual to ensure intended results are achieved. This initiative shifts roles and responsibilities, but requires no additional resources.

The NASA Procurement Reinvention Lab is developing preliminary plans to revise the internal processes to effect shorter lead times by eliminating non-value- added steps and reviews. NASA is exploring with other agencies the possibility of waivers to their internal procedures that impact on NASA processes. NASA anticipates being able to share lessons learned with the other agency procuring offices and hopes to make some far-reaching recommendations to the federal acquisition process.

The agency intends to begin implementing improvements to the procurement system as they are identified. Efforts have begun in-house to delegate review and authorities to lower levels. NASA's next step is to pursue changes external to its own organization. Contacts have already been made at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and have resulted in a positive response. NASA is optimistic that this project will reveal a better way to do business.

The efforts to improve the efficiency of the complex Space Shuttle and payload processing task involve cultural changes that require demonstrated management commitment. Over 11,000 employees have been trained in the principles of continual improvement and over 900 teams have been formed to analyze each stage of the Space Shuttle process at KSC. Over 700 potential enhancements have been documented and tracked with over 500 specific improvements already implemented and the remainder under assessment.

Top management at KSC personally communicated the vision, set the priorities, committed the resources, and authorized the work force to initiate change. The successes NASA has made to date have been possible because the outyear goals have been clearly established and understood for five years, and the government/contractor team has been in place and undisturbed over this entire period.

In reducing the Space Shuttle processing time, productivity gains and customer satisfaction are compatible goals with the KSC team and the payload customer working together as partners in continual improvement. Improvements in processing are a result of a commitment by both NASA and contractor employees to provide quality processing services to the customer at reduced costs.

Many of the management and procurement challenges which face NASA are confronted governmentwide. Reforms may involve regulatory changes and perhaps statutory measures. NASA has pledged to be vigilant in the application of these reforms and is confident that its recent initiatives combined with the NPR objectives will result in improved and more cost- effective operations and better customer service.

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