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Aerospace Testing: Promise of Closer NASA/DOD Cooperation Remains Largely Unfulfilled (Letter Report, 03/11/98, GAO/NSIAD-98-52).

GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA)
and Department of Defense's (DOD) cooperation to develop a national
perspective on aerospace test facilities, focusing on: (1) the extent to
which NASA/DOD working groups on major test facilities have been
operating on a regular basis; (2) NASA's and DOD's actions in response
to a future need to test an engine for new Air Force rockets; (3)
whether NASA and DOD prepared a congressionally required joint plan on
rocket propulsion test facilities; and (4) whether NASA and DOD are
implementing a DOD assessment team's recommendation in March 1997 to
jointly manage with NASA certain aeronautical test facilities.

GAO noted that: (1) the promise of closer NASA/DOD cooperation and the
development of a national perspective on aerospace test facilities
remains largely unfulfilled because NASA and DOD: (a) have not yet
convened most test facility alliances; (b) compete with each other to
test engines for new rockets; and (c) did not prepare a congressionally
required joint plan on rocket propulsion test facilities; (2) although
NASA and DOD have agreed to go beyond cooperative alliances in
aeronautics and jointly manage their aeronautical test facilities, they
have not yet reached agreement on key aspects of management
organization; (3) NASA and DOD took 20 months (May 16 through December
1997) to negotiate and sign agreements formally establishing the six
test facility-related cooperative alliances; (4) despite the formation
of the rocket propulsion alliance, NASA and DOD compete against each
other to test engines for new rocket programs; (5) a principal arena of
competition is the next phase of the Air Force's Evolved Expendable
Launch Vehicle program; (6) DOD did not prepare a legislatively mandated
joint plan with NASA to coordinate rocket propulsion test facilities;
(7) in a letter to congressional committee chairs and other members, DOD
said that the basis of such a plan are: (a) on-going activities such as
Vision 21; (b) the May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review of defense
strategy; and (c) activities of the rocket propulsion alliance; (8)
however, these efforts are unlikely to form the basis of a joint plan
because NASA is not participating in either Vision 21 or the Defense
Review; (9) in October 1997, NASA and Air Force officials took a step
toward creating a national perspective on test facilities in the
aeronautics area; (10) specifically, they reached an understanding on
the scope and approach for joint strategic management of their
aeronautical test facilities, including a new management organization;
(11) however, they have not yet resolved basic issues, such as the
organization's structure and authority; and (12) ultimately, if joint
strategic management of aeronautics test facilities is successfully
established, its adaption to other types of test facilities could be
considered.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-98-52
     TITLE:  Aerospace Testing: Promise of Closer NASA/DOD Cooperation 
             Remains Largely Unfulfilled
      DATE:  03/11/98
   SUBJECT:  Interagency relations
             Federal downsizing
             Cost effectiveness analysis
             Aerospace research
             Base realignments
             Aerospace engineering
             Research and development
             Test facilities
IDENTIFIER:  DOD Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program
             DOD Vision 21 Plan
             DOD Quadrennial Defense Review
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee
on Science, Technology and Space, Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation, U.S.  Senate

March 1998

AEROSPACE TESTING - PROMISE OF
CLOSER NASA/DOD COOPERATION
REMAINS LARGELY UNFULFILLED

GAO/NSIAD-98-52

NASA/DOD Cooperation

(707250)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  AACB - Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board
  BRAC - Base Realignment and Closure
  DOD - Department of Defense
  EELV - Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
  NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-276817

March 11, 1998

The Honorable William H.  Frist
Chairman
The Honorable John D.  Rockefeller, IV
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the
Department of Defense (DOD) operate several types of aerospace test
facilities, including wind tunnels and rocket engine test stands. 
Since the end of the Cold War, Congress has been appropriating less
money for aerospace programs.  In response to declining budgets and
reductions in personnel, NASA and DOD agreed in 1995 to perform
essential aerospace testing on a more cooperative basis.\1 The
agencies recommended, in April 1996, that they establish joint
working groups, or alliances, to assess and make recommendations on
investments and other issues. 

As requested, we are providing you with the results of our review of
NASA's and DOD's cooperation since May 1996 to develop a national
perspective on aerospace test facilities.\2 Specifically, to assess
the progress of cooperative efforts we determined (1) the extent to
which NASA/DOD working groups ("alliances") on major test facilities
have been operating on a regular basis, (2) NASA's and DOD's actions
in response to a future need to test an engine for new Air Force
rockets, (3) whether NASA and DOD prepared a congressionally required
joint plan on rocket propulsion test facilities, and (4) whether NASA
and DOD are implementing a DOD assessment team's recommendation in
March 1997 to jointly manage with NASA certain aeronautical test
facilities. 

This report includes a matter for congressional consideration. 


--------------------
\1 A framework within which changes to the federal research,
development, test, and evaluation infrastructure can be accomplished
was discussed in Best Practices:  Elements Critical to Successfully
Reducing Unneeded RDT&E Infrastructure (GAO/NSIAD/RCED-98-23, Jan. 
8, 1998). 

\2 NASA/DOD cooperation on test facilities was previously discussed
in NASA Infrastructure:  Challenges to Achieving Reductions and
Efficiencies (GAO/NSIAD-96-187, Sept.  9, 1996) and
(GAO/T-NSIAD-96-238, Sept.  11, 1996). 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

In June 1995, NASA and DOD agreed to identify cooperative actions
that could lead to significant reductions in investments and cost of
operations.\3 The agencies identified seven areas of mutual interest,
one of which was major aerospace test facilities--specifically, wind
tunnels, aeropropulsion test cells, rocket engine test stands, space
environmental simulation chambers, arc-heaters, and hypervelocity gas
guns and ballistic ranges.\4 The cooperation initiative was done
under the auspices of the joint NASA/DOD Aeronautics and Astronautics
Coordinating Board (AACB).\5
Figure 1 shows the location of these test facilities. 

   Figure 1:  Location of Major
   NASA and DOD Test Facilities

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

The number of active major test facilities declined from 260 in 1993
to 186 in 1996.  The AACB's major test facilities study team
concluded that, in most areas, the present number of major test
facilities "very nearly represents the minimum required to conduct
the aeronautical- and space-related research and development programs
identified for this country."\6 The study team further stated that
(1) closing facilities without eliminating programs does not generate
big savings, (2) NASA and DOD are not on a common track to developing
comparable facility-cost accounting, (3) there is inadequate
coordination of investments, upgrades, and operations between NASA
and DOD, and (4) NASA and DOD's rocket propulsion test facilities
have excess capacity for current and future workload.  To address
these issues, the team recommended in April 1996 that NASA and DOD
form six cooperative alliances\7 to

  -- coordinate investment to avoid unnecessary duplication,

  -- coordinate test schedules to spread the workload across
     facilities, and

  -- develop standardized and common business processes. 

Notwithstanding a history of NASA/DOD cooperation on aerospace test
facility-related issues prior to 1996,\8 these goals collectively
represent an effort to develop a broader national perspective on such
issues.  In September 1996, Congress added to this effort by
requiring NASA and DOD to prepare a joint plan on rocket propulsion
test facilities. 


--------------------
\3 Final Report on the 1995-1996 DOD/NASA Cooperation Initiative
(AACB, May 1996). 

\4 See appendix I for information about these types of test
facilities. 

\5 The AACB is chaired by the Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition and Technology and NASA's Deputy Administrator.  The
purpose of the AACB is to facilitate coordination of aeronautics and
space activities of mutual interest. 

\6 The study team documented a 30-percent reduction in active
aeronautical facilities since 1993, with an annual saving of $14.2
million. 

\7 In the summer of 1995, NASA officials met several times to discuss
cooperation on rocket propulsion testing on a national basis, and the
major test facilities study team's proposal to form alliances drew on
the discussions of this group. 

\8 For example, DOD relies on NASA to meet all of its subsonic wind
tunnel testing requirements.  Also, research and test centers such as
NASA's Lewis Research Center, Ohio, and DOD's Arnold Engineering
Development Center, Tenn., cooperate in several areas, including
testing the effects of icing on aircraft wings and engines. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

The promise of closer NASA/DOD cooperation and the development of a
national perspective on aerospace test facilities remains largely
unfulfilled because NASA and DOD (1) have not yet convened most test
facility alliances, (2) compete with each other to test engines for
new rockets, and (3) did not prepare a congressionally required joint
plan on rocket propulsion test facilities.  Although NASA and DOD
have agreed to go beyond cooperative alliances in aeronautics and
jointly manage their aeronautical test facilities, they have not yet
reached agreement on key aspects of a management organization. 

NASA and DOD took 20 months (May 1996 through Dec.  1997) to
negotiate and sign agreements formally establishing the six test
facility-related cooperative alliances.\9 During that time, only the
space environmental simulation alliance met regularly and conducted
business.  The already established rocket propulsion alliance met
only once during this period despite a desire by some members to meet
regularly.  NASA and DOD officials did not regularly convene the
other four alliances in the absence of approved charters.\10

Despite the formation of the rocket propulsion alliance, NASA and DOD
compete against each other to test engines for new rocket programs. 
A principal arena of competition is the next phase of the Air Force's
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.\11 In particular,
the Air Force has spent millions of dollars to upgrade a test stand
on the assumption that it, not NASA, would test EELV engines. 

DOD did not prepare a legislatively mandated joint plan with NASA to
coordinate rocket propulsion test facilities.\12 In a letter to
congressional committee chairs and other members, DOD said that the
bases of such a plan are (1) on-going activities such as Vision
21,\13 (2) the May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review of defense
strategy,\14 and (3) activities of the rocket propulsion alliance. 
However, these efforts are unlikely to form the basis of a joint plan
because NASA is not participating in either Vision 21 or the Defense
Review.  Further, DOD prepared, but did not submit, a legislative
package for Vision 21, and instead opted to include consolidation of
its laboratories and test and evaluation centers in future "Base
Realignment and Closure" (BRAC) rounds.  But Congress, so far, has
not accepted the need for such rounds.  As a consequence, Vision 21's
future is unclear until Congress either changes its position on BRAC
or new guidelines for Vision 21 are developed. 

In October 1997, NASA and Air Force officials took a step toward
creating a national perspective on test facilities in the aeronautics
area.  Specifically, they reached an understanding on the scope and
approach for joint strategic management of their aeronautical test
facilities, including a new management organization.  However, they
have not yet resolved basic issues, such as the organization's
structure and authority.  Ultimately, if joint strategic management
of aeronautics test facilities is successfully established, its
adaption to other types of test facilities could be considered. 


--------------------
\9 The charters were signed by DOD on December 24, 1997, and by NASA
on January 9, 1998.  See appendix II for the charter of the National
Rocket Propulsion Test Alliance. 

\10 Between November 1996 and October 1997, NASA and DOD officials
participated in workshops and meetings on wind tunnel test technology
and joint management of aeronautics test facilities.  Agency
officials consider these meetings to be functionally equivalent to
alliance meetings.  The Airbreathing Propulsion Test Facilities
alliance held its first meeting on October 23, 1997.  Also, NASA and
Air Force officials held four discussions on rocket propulsion
test-related issues during the May 1996-November 1997 period. 

\11 Additional information on the EELV program can be found in Access
to Space:  Issues Associated With DOD's Evolved Expendable Launch
Vehicle Program (GAO/NSIAD-97-130, June 24, 1997). 

\12 Section 211(c) of the National Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 1997 (P.L.  104-201, Sept.  23, 1996). 

\13 Vision 21 responds to sections 277 and 265 of the National
Defense Authorization Act of 1996
(P.L.  104-106, Feb.  10, 1996).  Section 277 requires a 5-year plan
to consolidate and restructure DOD's laboratories and test and
evaluation centers by 2005.  Section 265 requires DOD to conduct a
comprehensive review of U.S.  aeronautical research and test
facilities. 

\14 The review of the defense program (potential threats, strategy,
force structure, readiness posture, military modernization programs,
and defense infrastructure) was required by the Military Force
Structure Review Act of 1996 (title IX, subtitle B of P.L.  104-201,
Sept.  23, 1996). 


   MOST NASA/DOD ALLIANCES WOULD
   NOT MEET WITHOUT APPROVED
   CHARTERS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The institutional centerpiece of future NASA/DOD cooperation on
aerospace test facilities is six alliances approved by the AACB in
April 1996.  Twenty months later, NASA and DOD signed agreements
formally establishing these alliances.  However, with one exception,
the new alliances did not meet regularly during that time, and the
rocket propulsion alliance--which predates the cooperation
initiative--met only once.  The one exception was the space
environmental simulation alliance, which met four times and evaluated
a proposed new investment at Kennedy Space Center.  The rationale
given by most alliances for not meeting was the lack of an approved
charter. 


      ONLY ONE ALLIANCE MET
      REGULARLY
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.1

Despite not having official charters, the space environmental
simulation alliance met four times and the rocket propulsion test
alliance met once between May 1996 and October 1997.  The other
alliances could have conducted business without formal charters, but
did not.  At its inaugural meeting in November 1996, the space
environmental simulation alliance noted the absence of a charter, but
agreed to conduct business deemed to be in the "best national
interest." The alliance also met in February, May, and August 1997. 

Similarly, the rocket propulsion test alliance met in October 1996
and members noted other alliances "do not appear to be meeting," but
agreed the rocket propulsion alliance "cannot wait." As of November
30, 1997, this alliance has not met again.  A NASA official told us
the alliance did not meet because there was little business to
discuss until NASA implemented its plan, as discussed below, to
consolidate NASA's management of rocket propulsion testing.  In
addition, NASA and DOD officials disagreed over who in their
respective agencies should sign the alliance's charter. 


      ALLIANCE HELPED ELIMINATE
      PROPOSAL TO BUILD VACUUM
      CHAMBER
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.2

An example of how the promise of closer cooperation on test
facility-related issues can be met by alliances was provided by the
space environmental simulation alliance in March 1997.  In early
1997, officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center proposed to build a
vacuum chamber to (1) test for leaks in the pressurized parts of the
International Space Station prior to their launch and assembly in
space and (2) support an environmental test capability at Kennedy. 
In February 1997, NASA headquarters officials asked the space
environmental simulation alliance to evaluate the proposal.  In March
1997, the alliance's evaluation team concluded that there was "no
compelling reason" to construct such a facility to support space
station requirements.  With regard to Kennedy's proposed test
capability, the team recommended a "rigorous" thermal vacuum chamber
requirements and cost-benefits analysis that, in part, would include
determination of the national thermal vacuum chamber capabilities. 

On June 25, 1997, the Kennedy Space Center introduced another
approach to justify acquiring a vacuum chamber.  This time, Kennedy
officials solicited comments from industry, for planning purposes
only, on the design, construction, and procurement methodology for a
thermal vacuum chamber to simulate environments on other planets. 
Kennedy officials estimated the chamber would cost from $35 million
to $60 million.  NASA's Office of the Inspector General is currently
doing a review to determine whether (1) the alliance's recommended
cost-benefit analysis was performed, (2) the vacuum chamber is needed
to support present and future NASA missions and programs, and (3)
funding will be available for the project's construction,
installation, and operation.  The Inspector General has not set a
completion date for this review. 


   NASA AND DOD COMPETE TO TEST
   ROCKET ENGINES
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

Despite the formation of the rocket propulsion alliance, NASA's and
DOD's relationship over this type of testing has been recently marked
by competition.  Partly to improve its competitive position, NASA has
consolidated rocket propulsion test management in one center, but is
struggling to define the center's authority for this role.  Testing
engines in the next phase of the EELV program was the focus of NASA
and Air Force competition.  In July 1997, an EELV engine contractor
provisionally selected NASA's Stennis Space Center to test engines in
the next phase of the program.  Consequently, the future role of the
Air Force's test center for this program is uncertain. 


      NASA CONSOLIDATES MANAGEMENT
      OF ROCKET PROPULSION TEST
      FACILITIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.1

NASA tests rocket engines in four locations:  Stennis Space Center,
Mississippi; Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama; White Sands Test
Facility, New Mexico; and Lewis Research Center's Plum Brook Station,
Ohio.  According to Stennis officials, these four test locations have

     "resulted in facility duplication and higher overall
     infrastructure-related costs.  Substantial investments have been
     made in facilities based on local insight and local funding
     provided by programs, institutions, and non-NASA customers
     rather than on an Agency-wide perspective."

In May 1996, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Flight
unilaterally designated Stennis Space Center the center of excellence
"not only for NASA, but DOD, other government agencies, academia and
industry." He noted, the "unique capabilities currently in place" at
Stennis "permit us to centralize the major propulsion test facilities
of NASA, DOD, and industry." NASA's rocket propulsion testing is
managed by the Rocket Propulsion Test Management Board.\15 It
determines the location of each test, reviews investment
recommendations, and establishes annual budget requirements.\16 For
example, in November 1996, the Board accepted a recommendation to
relocate a 5,000 gallon high pressure liquid hydrogen tank from a
component test stand at Marshall to the one at Stennis, as part of
NASA's plan to complete this facility and consolidate test
capabilities at Stennis.\17 The Board has also decided to move four
other liquid oxygen tanks from Marshall. 


--------------------
\15 Board members are from Stennis, Marshall, White Sands, and Lewis. 
The Board's chair is from Stennis. 

\16 According to a Stennis official, Stennis has authority, in
principle, to establish the rocket propulsion test budget on a
NASA-wide basis, but details of how it will do so are incomplete. 

\17 NASA requested $45.5 million to complete this partially
constructed facility.  The funds were appropriated by the Omnibus
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1996 (P.L.  104-134, Apr.  26,
1996).  The facility was started in 1989 in support of the Advanced
Launch System program and stopped when the program was canceled in
1992. 


      NASA REJECTS INTERNAL PLAN
      TO REDUCE ROCKET PROPULSION
      TEST FACILITIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.2

Although NASA has consolidated management of rocket propulsion
testing at Stennis, it has struggled to define Stennis' authority to
make investment decisions.  For example, the early goals of
consolidation went beyond relocation to include mothballing and
abandoning test assets as necessary to reduce or eliminate
unnecessary duplication and lower costs.  In January 1997, Stennis
officials proposed a plan that would have greatly reduced testing at
Marshall and Plum Brook; some stands would have been abandoned and
others would have had their capabilities reduced and transferred to
Stennis and White Sands.  The draft plan was based on known
requirements for NASA's test services.  But, by June 1997, NASA's
management decided to abandon Stennis' plan rather than the test
stands at other centers.  Nearly all of the test stands and
facilities that would have been deactivated by the January plan will
remain open.  According to Stennis officials, the June plan is based
on possible future customers, which are estimated to be more
plentiful than funded customers.\18


--------------------
\18 An unfunded but possible future customer is a liquid fuel engine
for the Space Shuttle's reusable boosters.  The current boosters use
solid fuel.  Congress has not approved new types of boosters for the
Shuttle. 


      AIR FORCE TRIES TO IMPROVE
      COMPETITIVE POSITION
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.3

The Air Force tests rocket engines at Phillips Laboratory, Edwards
Air Force Base, California; and Arnold Engineering Development
Center, Tennessee.\19 In April 1997, the Air Force established the
Air Force Research Laboratory consisting of Phillips Laboratory,
three other laboratories, and the Air Force Office of Scientific
Research.\20 However, Arnold, as a test center, is not part of the
consolidation. 

Phillips Laboratory's Test Stand 1A was built in the late 1950s and
has recently been altered to give it a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen
capability.  Phillip's Test Stand 2A also has been changed for a
high-pressure liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen capability for testing
engine components.  So far, changes to these stands have cost about
$49 million.\21 Test stand 1A's changes are for EELV engine testing
and 2A for the government--and industry--sponsored Integrated High
Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology program to boost engine
performance over the next 15 years.\22


--------------------
\19 Phillips Laboratory's headquarters is Kirtland Air Force Base,
N.Mex.  The Navy and Army test rocket engines at the Naval Air
Warfare Center, China Lake, Calif.; and Redstone Technical Test
Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., respectively. 

\20 This reorganization is being conducted in phases between March
1997 and 2001.  Besides Phillips Laboratory, the other laboratories
affected by the consolidation are Armstrong, Rome, and Wright. 

\21 The cost to change Test Stand 1A has been about $14 million and
Test Stand 2A about $35 million. 

\22 NASA and DOD have participated in this program since 1993 to
develop new propulsion technologies in three phases with goals set
for 2000, 2005, and 2010.  For example, at the end of phase I in
2000, new propulsion technologies are to cut existing expendable
launch vehicle costs by 38 percent and increase payloads by an
average of 40 percent. 


      AIR FORCE MAY HAVE LOST
      COMPETITION TO TEST NEW
      ENGINE
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.4

The federal government currently uses a fleet of expendable launch
vehicles--Delta, Atlas, and Titan--to transport national security and
civil satellites into space.  According to DOD, these vehicles
currently operate at or near their maximum performance capability. 
In 1994, Congress directed DOD to develop a space launch
modernization plan that led to the initiation of the EELV program. 
On December 20, 1996, the Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas' Delta
IV and a Lockheed Martin proposal for the "preliminary engineering
and manufacturing development" phase of the competition to build the
Air Force's EELVs consisting of small, medium, and heavy launchers. 
Lockheed Martin's EELV will use the Russian-designed RD-180 engine to
be built by Pratt and Whitney.  Rocketdyne Division of Boeing North
American is building the Delta IV's first-stage RS-68 engine.\23 In
November 1996, Rocketdyne selected Phillips to test its engines in
the second, or pre-engineering and manufacturing development, phase
of the program.  Originally, a single contractor for the third, or
engineering and manufacturing development, phase of the EELV program
was to have been selected in June 1998.\24 The anticipated contract
value for the third phase was $1.6 billion over approximately
6 years.  However, on November 6, 1997, the Air Force announced a
change in acquisition strategy to fund both Boeing's and Lockheed
Martin's EELVs in the third phase of the program. 

Testing EELV engines in the next phase of the program is important to
Stennis and Phillips.  According to a Stennis official, Stennis has
two test stands available for EELV engine testing in 1998, but
without EELV engine testing, there are no identifiable customers
starting in 1999 for these and another of its large test stands.\25
And, as noted previously, the Air Force refurbished Phillip's Test
Stand 1A for EELV engine testing.  This test stand has no other
funded customers. 

Despite the Air Force's efforts, it may have lost its EELV engine
customer to NASA.  On July 19, 1997, Boeing stated that it had
selected Stennis to conduct development, certification, and
production acceptance testing of the RS-68 engine.  Boeing has not
yet fully defined its test requirements, and its intention to test at
Stennis is conditional pending a satisfactory resolution of such
issues as the amount of Stennis' user fees.  Boeing may also test
this engine on Phillip's Test Stand 1A, but it has not made a formal
commitment to do so. 


--------------------
\23 The Boeing Company and McDonnell Douglas Corporation began
operations as a single company on August 4, 1997. 

\24 EELV acquisition is in three phases--low-cost concept validation
(Aug.  1995-Dec.  1996), pre-engineering and manufacturing
development (Dec.  1996-June 1998), and engineering, and
manufacturing development (June 1998-2004). 

\25 Testing the engines for Lockheed's Reusable Launch Vehicle is
scheduled to start in 2004. 


      ROCKET PROPULSION ALLIANCE
      NOT YET PLAYING AN ACTIVE
      ROLE
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.5

The rocket propulsion alliance last met in October 1996 but did not
discuss such major current issues as (1) consolidation of propulsion
testing at NASA or elsewhere, (2) competition between NASA and the
Air Force to test engines, and (3) investment decisions. 

According to NASA officials, the alliance is likely to be reactive
and unlikely to initiate a consolidation-related evaluation on its
own.  At the October meeting, NASA described the reasons for making
Stennis NASA's center of excellence for rocket propulsion testing and
noted its consolidation plan would be completed by early 1997. 

At the time of the alliance meeting in October, NASA and the Air
Force were competing to test EELV engines in the current phase of the
program.  Upgrades to Phillips' test stands for EELV testing were
noted at the meeting, but this investment was not critically
discussed.  Also not discussed was the role the alliance might play
in evaluating future investment decisions or NASA's effort to
complete the component test facility at Stennis after the Air Force
had started to refurbish its own component test stand at Phillips. 
According to a DOD official associated with the alliance, a test of
its effectiveness is the ability of alliance members to review a
proposed investment in test facilities. 


   REQUIRED JOINT ROCKET
   PROPULSION TEST FACILITIES PLAN
   WAS NOT SUBMITTED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

In September 1996, Congress enacted legislation requiring NASA and
DOD to submit within 90 days a

     "joint plan for coordinating and eliminating unnecessary
     duplication in the operations and planned improvements of rocket
     engine and rocket engine component test facilities managed by
     the [Air Force and NASA].  The plan shall provide, to the extent
     practical, for the development of commonly funded and commonly
     operated facilities."\26

In a January 1997 response to congressional committees, DOD
acknowledged that although NASA and the Air Force "do not yet have a
formal plan," a range of efforts was underway that would "form the
basis for such a plan." The efforts cited were Vision 21, the
Quadrennial Defense Review, and the rocket propulsion alliance. 

The first two efforts cited are unlikely to form the basis of a joint
plan because NASA is not a formal part of the Vision 21 review, and
DOD does not intend that its 5-year plan to consolidate and
restructure its laboratories and test and evaluation centers be a
joint plan with other federal agencies.  NASA also was not a formal
part of the Quadrennial Defense Review of defense strategy. 
Nevertheless, NASA concurred with DOD's response.  DOD did not state
in its letter whether it would prepare a joint plan for submission to
Congress in the future. 

The rocket propulsion test alliance's possible role in joint planning
is problematical at this time in as much as the alliance has not met
since October 1996 and the requirement for a joint plan was not
formally discussed at the meeting. 

There is an additional reason why Vision 21 cannot serve as the basis
of the joint plan.  DOD prepared, but did not submit, a legislative
package for Vision 21; instead, it opted to include consolidation of
its laboratories and test and evaluation centers in future BRAC
rounds.  But Congress, so far, has not accepted the need for such
rounds.  As a consequence, Vision 21's future is unclear until
Congress either changes its position on BRAC or new guidelines for
Vision 21 are developed. 


--------------------
\26 Public Law 104-201, section 211(c). 


   NASA AND DOD MOVE TOWARD JOINT
   STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT OF
   AERONAUTICAL TEST FACILITIES
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

NASA and DOD took a step toward creating a national perspective on
testing in the area of aeronautics by agreeing in May 1997 to
consider joint strategic management of their test facilities.  And in
October 1997, NASA and Air Force officials reached a verbal
understanding on the scope and approach for joint strategic
management, but have yet to agree on key aspects of a management
organization.  Ultimately, if joint strategic management of
aeronautics testing is successfully established, its adaption to
other types of test facilities could be considered. 


      NASA AND DOD OFFICIALS'
      CONCEPTS OF JOINT MANAGEMENT
      DIFFER
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :6.1

The October understanding was preceded by an agreement on May 5,
1997, between senior NASA and DOD officials to discuss issues
associated with joint strategic management.  In so doing, they
rejected the two aeronautical alliances (wind tunnels and
aeropropulsion) as the way to address a variety of management and
investment issues. 

This agreement, in turn, followed a DOD assessment team's report,
which noted in March 1997: 

     "Each agency and Service manages its wind tunnel facilities
     independently.  There is no structured oversight of the various
     facilities in the nation .  .  .  .  As a result, there is no
     focused approach to what the national needs are for the various
     facilities."\27

The DOD assessment team was skeptical that the two aeronautical
alliances could effectively overcome this tradition of independence
and recommended, in part, that DOD (1) establish a new office with
NASA to manage the investment and test-technology-related funds for
the nation's core government wind tunnel facilities and (2)
immediately initiate with NASA and industry a long-term program to
build a new transonic wind tunnel.\28

The DOD assessment team proposed a new organization--National
Aeronautical Facility Base--with members from the three military
departments and NASA.\29

The members would reside within their parent agencies, and, in ad hoc
fashion, comprise the new organization.  The organization would not
have authority over operations and maintenance funds, which would
remain under the separate authorities of DOD and NASA.  But the
management organization would "make investments based on a national
perspective without regard to whether the wind tunnel facility is
DOD- or NASA-owned."

NASA's aeronautical officials also were doubtful about the adequacy
of the cooperative alliances, and in November 1996, before the AACB's
aeronautics panel, recommended formation of an independent
organization to strategically manage selected NASA and DOD wind
tunnels and aeropropulsion test cells.\30

However, in NASA's proposal, the new organization would receive
funding from participating agencies and possibly industry, and its
staff would be full-time members of the organization. 

In proposing their different versions of joint management, NASA and
DOD officials noted that in 1994 seven European aeronautical research
establishments had combined to form a joint management organization
called the Association of European Research Establishments in
Aeronautics, which now manages five wind tunnels in four countries. 
NASA and DOD officials believe relatively new European wind tunnels
and the association of research establishments have combined to make
Europe's facilities especially competitive in attracting new
test-related business.\31

In October 1997, NASA and Air Force officials reached a verbal
understanding on a scope and approach for a joint strategic
management organization.  The understanding proposes that NASA and
DOD will continue to own, operate, and fund their own test
facilities.  The purpose of the new management organization will be
to provide strategic management in four areas:  (1) planning
(includes making foreign competitive assessments and developing an
associated strategy), (2) test technology (includes advocacy for
resources), (3) operations policy (includes reviewing, coordinating,
and recommending facilities' test schedules), and (4) business
management (includes, as discussed below, cost accounting and
charging policy).  The new organization will be under the review
authority of the AACB. 

However, basic questions remain about strategic joint management,
including the new organization's structure and authority to make
binding decisions and recommendations.  NASA and DOD officials have
not agreed on a charter for the new management organization. 


--------------------
\27 DOD Aeronautical Test Facilities Assessment (Mar.  1997), p.  60. 

\28 This recommendation revives a recommendation of the April 1994
report of the "National Facilities Study" team, which recommended
that two major new wind tunnels be developed with the primary
objective of strengthening U.S.  industry's capability to compete
effectively in the international market for commercial jet
transports.  In 1996, NASA terminated this program due to budget
constraints.  See David P.  Radzanowski, Wind Tunnels:  Proposal for
a New National Wind Tunnel Complex (Congressional Research Service,
Jan.  4, 1995). 

\29 The model for this organization is DOD's Major Range and Test
Facility Base, which is comprised of 21 test installations,
facilities, and ranges, including, for example, Arnold Engineering
Development Center. 

\30 Aside from Aeronautics, the AACB's other panels are Launch
Systems Development, Spacecraft Technology, and Space Communications
and Operations. 

\31 European Aeronautics:  Strong Government Presence in Industry
Structure and Research and Development Support (GAO/NSIAD-94-71, Mar. 
23, 1994). 


      COST ISSUES REMAIN
      UNRESOLVED
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :6.2

The major facilities study team recognized that consolidation of test
facilities depended on the development of "consistent/comparable"
cost models because currently NASA and DOD differ on the issues of
how much and whom to charge for testing.  Generally, NASA does not
charge for use of its aeronautical test facilities, while DOD does. 

The major facilities study team developed some information on cost
models.  The team noted that although NASA's and DOD's "direct" and
"indirect" costs were comparable at summary levels, differences over
what to charge users of test services remained.\32 In 1993, Congress
gave DOD increased flexibility to adjust charges for indirect costs
for commercial users of its Major Range and Test Facility Base.\33
NASA does not charge customers of its aeronautical facilities unless
they receive "special benefits" over and beyond those which accrue to
the public at large.  For example, NASA charges commercial customers
to use its wind tunnels if their tests are not officially supported
by a government contract or letter of intent, or, if so supported,
they are beyond the scope of testing requested by the government.  On
the other hand, DOD's Major Range and Test Facility Base charges
other federal agencies and commercial customers 100 percent of direct
costs and a portion of indirect costs. 


--------------------
\32 Direct costs are those that can be linked to specific activities
in using a facility itself.  Indirect costs are those common to
various programs using a facility, plus an allocated share of the
general and administrative costs of doing business at a research
center or base. 

\33 Section 846 of the Fiscal Year 1994 National Defense
Authorization Act (P.L.  103-160, Nov.  30, 1993). 


   CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

By agreeing to the recommendation to establish cooperative alliances,
the AACB accepted the proposition that institutionalizing cooperative
behavior in this way would add value to the already established
cooperative relationship between NASA and DOD.  Progress towards
validating this proposition has been slow and sporadic.  The
alliances appear to offer the opportunity for an ongoing evaluation
of test-related issues and cost-saving efficiencies of mutual
interest to NASA and DOD, and thereby, create the basis for the
testing community itself to construct a national perspective on these
issues.  While this perspective may be emerging in some cases, it is
essentially absent in others.  By not convening most alliances, the
development of a national perspective from the bottom up remains
largely untested.  While the effect of such a delay is unclear, it
may indicate that some NASA and DOD test officials do not see the
alliances as having practical value, and that, with few exceptions,
they would not object to continuing the pre-alliance status quo. 

In 1996, Congress began to push for a national perspective with the
requirement for joint planning, common funding, and common operations
of NASA and DOD's rocket propulsion test facilities.  NASA's and
DOD's formal reply to this requirement was not responsive. 
Consequently, it may be appropriate to reaffirm and extend the search
for a national perspective on test facility issues begun in the 1996
legislation. 


   MATTER FOR CONGRESSIONAL
   CONSIDERATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

Congressional intent, as reflected in the statutory requirement for
joint planning of rocket propulsion test facilities, is not being
fully met by NASA and DOD.  Congress may wish to consider reaffirming
its intention in this regard and extend its joint planning
requirement to other types of aerospace test facilities, including a
requirement that NASA and DOD assess the possible extension of joint
management of aeronautical facilities to other types of test
facilities, especially rocket propulsion. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR
   EVALUATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :9

In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD concurred that
NASA and DOD need to coordinate more on infrastructure planning, but
partially concurred that progress in institutionalizing cooperation
was slow and sporadic.  While DOD agreed that progress was slow in
some areas, it believed we should give more credit to the progress
that has been made.  DOD noted that, without formal alliance
charters, increases have occurred in interagency communications,
interagency meetings on coordination of test technology, joint
management alternatives and data bases, and the agencies'
understanding of each other's policies and capabilities.  DOD also
partially concurred with our suggestion that Congress may wish to
consider reaffirming its intention for joint planning of rocket
propulsion test facilities and assess the possible extension of joint
planning to other types of aerospace test facilities.  DOD emphasized
that it fully intends to meet congressional requirements and said
that further legislation is either not needed or premature.  DOD's
comments and our evaluation of them are included in appendix III. 

While an objective of our report is to determine the extent to which
cooperative alliances have been operating on a regular basis, we
recognized cooperative activities that preceded the signing of the
alliances' charters in January 1998.  For example, we noted
cooperation on (1) testing in subsonic wind tunnels, (2) testing the
effects of icing on aircraft, (3) developing wind tunnel test
technology plans, (4) discussing rocket engine test issues, and (5)
boosting rocket engine performance over the next 15 years.  In
particular, one activity cited by DOD--joint management
alternatives--is discussed in some detail. 

In responding to our conclusion and matter for congressional
consideration, DOD did not state when it intends to comply with the
statutory requirement.  Therefore, because DOD and NASA have not been
responsive to the congressional requirement, we believe that a
reaffirmation of congressional intent, which would not necessarily
require additional legislation, might be appropriate.  We did not
suggest that Congress extend joint management to other types of
aerospace test facilities, only that Congress consider requiring an
assessment of that possibility.  We believe our matter for
congressional consideration remains valid. 

In its written comments, NASA said the report could be strengthened
by including updated information and identifying past cooperative
activities made by the alliances.  As discussed previously, we
believe our report identified past cooperative activities.  We
updated the report where appropriate.  NASA's comments are reprinted
in appendix IV. 

NASA and DOD also provided technical comments which we have
incorporated where appropriate. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
----------------------------------------------------------- Letter :10

To accomplish our objectives, we obtained documents from and
interviewed officials at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.;
NASA's Langley Research Center, Virginia; Goddard Space Flight
Center, Maryland; and John C.  Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.  We
also held discussions with and obtained documents from officials in
the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and
Technology, the Air Force's Test and Evaluation Directorate,
Washington, D.C.; the Air Force's Phillips Laboratory Propulsion
Directorate, Edwards Air Force Base, California (now part of the Air
Force Laboratory, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio); the Air
Force's EELV program office, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California;
and the Air Force Materiel Command's Arnold Engineering Development
Center, Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee. 

To evaluate NASA and DOD's formal cooperation, we interviewed
cognizant officials about the chartering and perceived value of the
test facility alliances and reviewed the minutes of all formal
alliance and AACB panel meetings held between May 1996 and August
1997. 

With regard to competition to test EELV rocket engines, we
interviewed cognizant officials and reviewed documents at Stennis
Space Center and the Propulsion Directorate of Phillips Laboratory on
the perceived advantages and disadvantages of each test facility in
relation to EELV testing.  We also discussed EELV testing with
officials at the Air Force's EELV program office and with officials
of one of the EELV engine contractors. 

To evaluate NASA and DOD's response to a congressional requirement to
prepare a joint plan on rocket propulsion test facilities, we
interviewed officials about DOD's response and analyzed documents
obtained at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition and Technology. 

To review proposals for joint management of wind tunnels, we
interviewed cognizant officials about the perceived need for a new
management arrangement and reviewed joint-management proposals at the
Langley and Arnold centers. 

We performed our work between November 1996 and December 1997 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


--------------------------------------------------------- Letter :10.1

We are sending copies of this report to the NASA Administrator; the
Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Management and
Budget.  We will also make copies available to others upon request. 

If you or your staff have any questions, I can be reached at (202)
512-4841.  Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix
V. 

Allen Li
Associate Director,
Defense Acquisition Issues


MAJOR TEST FACILITIES
=========================================================== Appendix I

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the
Department of Defense (DOD) formed cooperative alliances for the
following types of test facilities: 

Wind tunnels are used to test aerodynamic forces (lift, drag, and
side force) acting on scale models of air and spacecraft in a
controlled airstream at different airspeeds.  The challenge to
testing in a wind tunnel is the applicability of results obtained
with a scale model to full-sized air and spacecraft.  Figure I.1
depicts a NASA wind tunnel that consisted of three test sections fed
by one power source consisting of 4 coupled electric motors capable
of 180,000 horsepower when operating on a continuous basis. 

   Figure I.1:  Wind Tunnel

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  NASA.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Aeropropulsion test cells are used to test air-breathing engines
under simulated flight conditions.  (See fig.  I.2.)

   Figure I.2:  Aeropropulsion
   Test Cell

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  Arnold Research
   Center.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Rocket engine test stands are used to test chemical, solar, electric,
and other types of rocket engines, and engine components such as fuel
pumps and injector systems.  Some test stands can simulate high
altitudes.  The test stand in figure I.3 is 160 feet high and can
test engines capable of producing 1.5 million pounds of thrust. 

   Figure I.3:  Rocket Engine Test
   Stand

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

\a Run tanks directly supply engine with fuel and oxydizer from
near-by storage tanks. 

   Source:  NASA.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Space environmental simulation chambers are used to test spacecraft,
instruments and components in ground handling, launch, and powered
and orbital flight environments.  Test facilities include acoustic
and thermal vacuum chambers.  Some simulation chambers are capable of
creating a vacuum of less than one billionth of atmospheric pressure. 
(See fig.  I.4.)

   Figure I.4:  Space
   Environmental Simulation
   Chamber

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  NASA.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Arc-heated facilities are used for two fundamental purposes: 
aerothermal testing of materials and structures to simulate the
aerodynamic heating environment of hypersonic flight, and
aeropropulsion testing of engines that operate at high velocities and
temperatures.  NASA tests heating of Earth and planetary entry
vehicles, and DOD tests heating of ballistic and other types of
missiles.  The arc heated facility illustrated in figure I.5 is
capable of heating gas to more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and
directing it under pressure at an object or material to be tested. 

   Figure I.5:  Arc-Heated
   Facility

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  NASA.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Hypervelocity gas guns are used for impact testing.  NASA tests
meteoroid/orbital debris-sized particles impacting on space
structures such as the international space station.  DOD tests
ballistic missile intercept systems.  In figure I.6, a powder charge
drives the piston into trapped hydrogen, compressing it.  The petal
valve ruptures, forcing the projectile and sabot down the launch
tube.  The sabot is machined plastic that protects the launch tube
from the projectile. 

   Figure I.6:  Hypervelocity Gas
   Gun

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  NASA.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix II
CHARTER OF NATIONAL ROCKET
PROPULSION TEST ALLIANCE
=========================================================== Appendix I



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix III
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
=========================================================== Appendix I



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)


The following are GAO's comments on DOD's letter dated December 23,
1997. 

GAO COMMENTS

1.  Refer to the "agency comments and our evaluation" section of the
report. 

2.  We do not indicate that the alliances were not pursuing the
intentions of their charters. 

3.  We did not review the basis of the Air Force's decision to
upgrade some of Phillips Laboratory's test stands, nor did we
evaluate the EELV program.  The point of our discussion of EELV
engine testing was to establish that the NASA/DOD relationship on
rocket engine testing is defined by both competitive and cooperative
behavior.  We used EELV engine testing to illustrate the competitive
aspect of this relationship.  The congressional requirement for joint
planning of rocket propulsion test facilities establishes the context
of our discussion because joint planning is one possible way to
manage the NASA/DOD relationship in this area.  With respect to DOD's
comment on the rocket propulsion alliance, we did not state that the
alliance should have reviewed the decision to upgrade Phillip's test
stands.  Our point is that, in the opinion of some alliance members,
a test of the alliance's future relevance is its determination and
ability to evaluate investment issues of the type that had been made
at Phillips and Stennis Space Center. 

4.  Determining test capacity of rocket engines was not an objective
of our report.  We note that when DOD states that "Both NASA and Air
Force officials have challenged the assumption that there is excess
rocket test capacity with the two agencies," it is, in fact,
disagreeing with the conclusion of its own May 1996 report on
NASA/DOD cooperative initiatives.  DOD's response does not provide
specific information as to why NASA's and DOD's perception changed
from May 1996 to October 1996 when DOD says the rocket propulsion
alliance determined that there was no excess test capacity in the
alliance for the next 2 years.  Subsequent to DOD's response, we
analyzed the minutes of the October 1996 meeting of the rocket
propulsion alliance and concluded that these minutes do not clearly
reflect that a discussion on test capacity took place or that a
determination about capacity was made. 

5.  We share DOD's concern about the premature expansion of joint
strategic management to other types of test facilities.  As we stated
in the report, ultimately, if joint strategic management of
aeronautics test facilities is successfully established, its adaption
to other types of test facilities could be considered. 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix IV
COMMENTS FROM THE NATIONAL
AERONAUTICS AND SPACE
ADMINISTRATION
=========================================================== Appendix I



(See figure in printed edition.)


MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
=========================================================== Appendix V

NATIONAL SECURITY AND
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS DIVISION,
WASHINGTON, D.C. 

Frank Degnan
Tom Mills
Dan Hoagland

DENVER FIELD OFFICE

Maria Durant
Mark McClarie

LOS ANGELES FIELD OFFICE

Ambrose McGraw
Jeff Webster


*** End of document. ***