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  Daily Briefing  
August 27, 2003

Report spawns rethinking about NASA's reliance on contractors

By Beth Dickey

The report of the space shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board issued this week blamed more than falling foam insulation for the destruction of the shuttle and the deaths of its crew. It accused NASA of allowing itself to be lulled into complacency by repeated debris strikes that didn't grievously harm shuttles during dozens of previous missions.

Columbia investigators began their search for the underlying causes of the tragedy by examining whether NASA set itself up for failure when it handed off the $3.2 billion-a-year shuttle program to the private sector in 1996.

With 87 percent of its $15 billion budget dedicated to contracts—the second highest share in government—NASA is a magnet for contracting criticism. A GAO report issued just a few days before Columbia was lost said NASA's contract management was ineffective and its financial controls were weak and risky.

In the August issue of Government Executive, veteran NASA reporter Beth Dickey, whose work was cited by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in its report, looks at how the disaster has raised serious questions about the agency's heavy reliance on contractors.

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  Shuttle Shakeup
Government Executive, August 2003

  • Investigators say NASA culture partly to blame for shuttle explosion   (08/26/03)
  • NASA needs management overhaul, shuttle investigators told   (06/12/03)
  • NASA chief: Shuttle program likely to resume in near future   (05/22/03)
  • Manager of NASA space shuttle program resigns   (04/23/03)
  • NASA could resume space flight in fall   (03/14/03)

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