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12/29/2003
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GAO Warns That NASA Is At Risk On Financial Management

The investigative arm of Congress faults the space agency for implementing parts of its financial-management program without an enterprise architecture.

NASA's latest effort to modernize its financial-management system is at risk, according to four reports issued Christmas week by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. One of the reports specifically faults the space agency for implementing significant parts of the Integrated Financial Management Program without an enterprise architecture to guide and constrain the program.

Without a well-defined enterprise architecture, the GAO says, NASA could waste millions of dollars by building duplicative systems that aren't interoperable, which could require a costly system rework. "It is critical for NASA to discontinue this approach and adopt the best practice of managing its IFMP system investments within the context of a well-defined enterprise architecture," writes Randolph Hite, the GAO's director for information technology architecture and systems issues.

NASA concedes the need for an enterprise architecture, and during the course of the GAO's investigation, the space agency took steps to develop one. It has established an architecture program office, designated a chief architect, and selected an architecture framework to employ. In recent weeks, NASA released an initial version of its enterprise architecture. Yet, GAO says NASA must do much more in order to effectively guide the development and deployment of the information management system.

NASA initiated the Integrated Financial Management Program in April 2000--its third effort to manage its finances--and about half of its core financial modules have been implemented. The system isn't expected to be fully deployed until the fall of 2006--at an estimated cost of nearly $1 billion.

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