We welcomed Cristina Chaplain back to the program for a two segment 90 minute discussion regarding the GAO, space, DOD, national security, congress and other key relationships. Ms Chaplain recently retired from her director position at the GAO so we got a good, accurate and reflective perspective on NASA, human spaceflight, launchers, public private partnerships, DOD and space plus much more. We started our important discussion with our guest going over the official GAO relationship with Congress and the areas covered by her former division and expertise.
We soon got into the issue of problems with big, costly projects and missions like JWST. Later in this discussion, I added the F35 as an example of what our guest was saying and then near the end of the show, I brought up the huge new aircraft carrier with the huge cost, the Gerald Ford, at a cost of around $13 billion. The issues our guest brought to our attention included management issues, cost controlling, reaching too far with advanced technology, and related items. A good portion of the first segment was on this subject and how space easily fell into this category of project and challenges.
Dr. Doug called with a change of pace question, asking about the difference between the GAO and Office of Inspector General (OIG). Cristina had much to say about both organizations, their differences, their overlaps, their working together on projects and each agency using information from the other agency. Doug specifically was interested in the OIG analysis about the ISS being commercialized but our guest said the GAO had not looked at that project. Doug's call was followed by an email from Kelly in Chicago inquiring about GAO analysis of commercial crew. This was another mini-comprehensive discussion with our guest. Given the problems our guest suggested, she was asked if blame could be assessed to either the private companies, congress, NASA, or someone else given all the delays, high costs and more. She said none of that was clear but don't miss her entire commentary per that specific blame question. Before moving on, a listener sent in an email asking if GAO had compared Boeing to SpaceX for challenges, performance, efficiency and such. She said no, that had not been done.
Denver John emailed us wanting to know about GAO analysis for both Orion and SLS. Listen to the explanation of our guests as why it has been challenging to do comparison studies focusing on these two government project. Next up, Ellen sent in a note asking if GAO had done a true cost benefit analysis for the taxpayer regarding the human spaceflight program of NASA. Cristina said such a study was very hard to do, we talked about how to measure intangibles but in the end, such a study has not been done because Congress has not asked for that type of study by GAO. Keep in mind, GAO seldom initiates its own projects. Todd from San Diego asked our guest about the Artemis Project along with SLS and Orion. Another listener asked if our guest knew anything more about the Loverro resignation other than what we have been reading in the press. Our guest did not have any additional information about the resignation. Later in the discussion our guest was asked about relationships with the GAO and the White House. She talked about the space council and the GAO.
As we were moving toward the end of the program Cristina talked about the Space Force and the part played by the GAO. Don't miss what our guest said about GAO and the development and possible future for The Space Force. She said future Space Force leadership was to be determined. Another late discussion topic was looking at various budgets and cost issues. This included both DOD and NASA, and areas of overlap and shared technology. Our guest mentioned launches as one shared activity. She suggested that both agencies shared similar problems. As we were about to close, our guest took an email question about the GAO working with classified programs. Cristina said they do work with them, have all the needed security classifications and that they frequently work on classified projects with the intelligence agencies and DOD side of thing.
Final program topics included a look and analysis at Public Private Partnerships, a need for a Plan B with huge mega projects like JWST, also the F35 being too big and too hard to cancel, and then she was asked how or if the GAO factored in our rising national debt. Before ending, I asked our guest to describe for us why she thought and still thinks space is essential, including human space flight and the commercial space industry. Don't miss her reply and commentary. Ft. Worth John called just in time to comment on program costs, pointing out that usually with a military or DOD project, multiple copies of the project get built such as with fighter planes. With NASA, it is usually just one such thing, i.e. one JWST. This of course makes the project unit cost much higher.
Please post your questions/comments for our guest on TSS blog page for this show. You can reach Ms. Chaplain through The Space Show.