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.
here for the full story.