Actions Needed to Improve Cost Estimate and Oversight of Test and Integration

December 3, 2012

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has provided significantly more time and money to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) than previously planned and expressed high confidence in the project's new baselines. Its current cost estimate reflects some features of best practices for developing reliable and credible estimates. For example, the estimate substantially meets one of four cost characteristics--comprehensive--that GAO looks for in a reliable cost estimate, in part because all life cycle costs were included. The estimate, however, only partially met the other three characteristics--well documented, accurate, and credible--which detracts from its reliability. For example, the estimate's accuracy, and therefore the confidence level assigned to the estimate, was lessened by the summary schedule used for the joint cost and schedule risk analysis because it did not provide enough detail to determine how risks were applied to critical project activities.

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