Author Topic: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion  (Read 130802 times)

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #300 on: 01/14/2013 01:55 pm »
[quoting Hertz in the LA Times article]"Itís not that our budget has gone down, itís that weíre spending more on James Webb than we had planned on at the time the decadal survey was done," Hertz said.

That original number?  From the decadal survey?
 
$1B

It's perfectly legal to be deliberately... uhhh... what's the word? ... Optimistic.

Excellent report tho:

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/499224main_JWST-ICRP_Report-FINAL.pdf

I scanned it.  Maybe someone knows a policymaker who has read it more thoroughly than I have.

Recommendation on Program Management?

Quote
Move the JWST management and accountability from the Astrophysics Division to a new organizational entity at HQ having responsibility only for the management and execution of JWST.

Translation?

Shuffle the deck chairs.

Recommendation on Accountability?

Quote
Revise the wording of the Agencyís Center responsibilities document, NPD 1000.01a, to correctly and unambiguously reflect clear lines of authority, accountability, and responsibility for program execution.

Translation?

Reword the requirements.  They had no idea they were expected to be accountable.

Recommendation on Communications?

First, the finding:

Quote
Communication problems have arisen between the GSFC JWST Project and both NASA HQ (SMD) and NGAS.

The solution?

Quote
Improve communications between the JWST Project and both GSFC management and NASA HQ SMD.

Translation?

Tautology works.

Afterword:

Quote
The ICRP did not find that the funds used by JWST over the last 7Ė8 years were wasted. On the contrary, a substantial amount of cutting-edge hardware has been delivered and is now being tested as part of the first steps toward the overall integration and test of the Observatory. The JWST Project does face serious difficulties, however, largely stemming from the lack of a well-defined plan for completion and because a series of decisions have led to substantial underfunding. The Project must find the path to a successful launch with a realistic budget and executable schedule.

Translation?

Not a cent has been wasted, and there is plenty of hardware in a clean room somewhere as proof.  No further action needed; a path will be found.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2013 04:03 pm by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline muomega0

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #301 on: 01/14/2013 03:00 pm »
yes, there are many recommendations to fix the problem with future programs, but recall NASA really has very little influence on the equation.

For JWST, a current program, there are different considerations.

First, lets roll back the clock:

How could anyone really expect to replace hubble with Webb for 1B when HST will cost about 12B by EOL as outlined here?

Now how could any NASA manager ever plan for a 25% budget cut by congress in the MIDDLE of the fabrication cycle (peak of the bell curve)?
Should this be included in the budget plan guidelines for NASA program managers and budget analysts?

Finally, why did Congress accept the costs without operational costs?  Why does Congress not know how much things really cost?

The answers are quite clear to me....but perhaps not others, but folks are really not looking for solutions, only perhaps talking points.

----
So now lets look at the sunk costs....its about 3B so far, 3B in operations, so its 2.8B to complete.....(round numbers, should be more precise...)

so today, would you spend 2.8B to complete JWST? and plan to operate it for 3B?

contrast this with SLS.  Its the same problem on a bigger scale:  the program outlined did not fit the budget...it was never even close...and there were a number of technical issues with the entire architecture.
It was so bad, it required 2010 shuttle retirement and ISS splashdown in 2015....and yet congress passed the law and told NASA to do what you can....

There is however a big difference:  you will have some pretty decent hardware that will function for the 2.8B forward, and the ops costs have precedents.

but with the another 10(?)B, one knows you cannot operate SLS even if you were handed it operational--perhaps a better way of saying this is that keeping 2-2.5B on the books for 30 years to fly every 12 to 18 months is quite a bit different than 3B total for ops, no?  So when it comes to address the bigger fish (elephant?)....

there are so many thing that could be done to help the multiple companies, the government, and hence the tax payer, because at the end of day, tax dollars mean jobs!  ....but....gridlock....

Offline Lee Jay

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #302 on: 01/14/2013 04:07 pm »
At this price the reliability of the launch vehicle should have been the only factor.

This is a falacy.

If the launch goes up in smoke (and we all hope it doesn't, of course), it wouldn't cost anywhere near as much to replace the spacecraft as it has to develop it in the first place.

Offline BeanEstimator

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #303 on: 01/14/2013 06:50 pm »
[quoting Hertz in the LA Times article]"Itís not that our budget has gone down, itís that weíre spending more on James Webb than we had planned on at the time the decadal survey was done," Hertz said.

That original number?  From the decadal survey?
 
$1B

It's perfectly legal to be deliberately... uhhh... what's the word? ... Optimistic.

Believe it or not, it started below $1B.  If you go back far enough, you may land at initial estimates of $500m. 

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/71607/description/Star_Cents

Quote
Excellent report tho:

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/499224main_JWST-ICRP_Report-FINAL.pdf

I scanned it.  Maybe someone knows a policymaker who has read it more thoroughly than I have.

It is actually a decent report.  Little known fact, the office "Independent Program Cost & Evaluation (IPCE)", which is mentioned in the report as an office needing more support, improvement, etc was disbanded shortly after the report was released.  Subgroups were broken up, and a new office was formed, "Office of Evaluation".  Take from that what you will. 

Quote
Recommendation on Program Management?

Quote
Move the JWST management and accountability from the Astrophysics Division to a new organizational entity at HQ having responsibility only for the management and execution of JWST.

Translation?

Shuffle the deck chairs.

Interesting enough, they did not mention anything about the Standing Review Board, the non-advocate charged with providing an independent unbiased view of a Program/Project (health, cost, schedule, technical, etc.)

The SRB chair today is the same as it ever was...

Who is more to blame, the salesman, or the guy who's supposed to be watching the salesman?

Someone go off and find out the SRB membership over time.  Should be public information.  If we're shuffling chairs, why not shuffle the SRB?  Take from that what you will.

Sorry to butt in, model was calculating and I had a few minutes to spare.   
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #304 on: 01/14/2013 08:15 pm »
Believe it or not, it started below $1B.  If you go back far enough, you may land at initial estimates of $500m.

I remember that, and it was the first number I typed in.  Figuring that $500M would have been criticized without a link, I quoted the 2000 decadal survey.  I couldn't find an "official" link to that original number. 

I'm sensitive to the requirement often levied around here, that one must read every NASA and Congressional document since 1957, before commenting on policies and programs.  If these various reports cannot stand on their own, that, to me, is telling.

Quote
It is actually a decent report.

It seems to tell the truth about the program, at least with the eyeglass prescription being used at this armchair.

However, I got to the various recommendations, and could not see a different interpretation than the one I briefly summarized above.

Quote
Sorry to butt in ...

Not a prob. Appreciate your comments.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2013 08:21 pm by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #305 on: 01/14/2013 10:27 pm »
Believe it or not, it started below $1B.  If you go back far enough, you may land at initial estimates of $500m. 

It's worth looking at how it started that low--not with an estimate, but with a challenge: essentially, the astronomers had something smaller in mind for $500 million, and Goldin told them to "think bigger" but at the same amount.

Some day maybe somebody will write a book about this project development and maybe they'll be diligent enough to dig through all the records and the interviews and the claims and the competing claims. They probably won't be able to get at anything that we could label "the truth," because there's lots of disagreement. I know--casually, not very well--a number of the people cited in that article. I've been in meetings where these issues come up. And they will repeat some of these stories. Then others will say "That's not really what happened..." and they will provide their own accounts. For instance, the astronomers will try to convince you that Goldin brow-beat them into accepting the low estimate and that they all had their reservations. But a lot of them went forward--with reservations--because they wanted their big telescope and this was the only way to get it. They did not write a dissent in their report where they said "The cost estimate is X but we do not believe it is accurate because..." There's plenty of blame to spread around.

That said, it is important to recognize a few major issues:

-at the time, very rarely did NASA or the advisory committees do independent cost estimates. A lot of the estimates were produced in-house, by NASA, and there was no other way to do a cost estimate. Those estimates did not include threats to the program development, for instance, how would a multi-year delay affect the overall cost? That wasn't factored in. NASA has now adopted a different approach. Mike Griffin helped bring more cost realism into the estimating process. Others helped. Congress put a lot of it into law.*

-it is important to understand that cost increases happened at different times and for different reasons. For example, when NASA was forced to operate on continuing budget resolutions rather than a rational budget process it blew the program budgets to smithereens. That wasn't the astronomers' fault, or NASA's fault, or the program managers' fault. It was a failure at the national level (Congress, but also the White House). So it's not accurate to simplify all of this and say "The original estimate was X and the current estimate is 16X, and that's all NASA's fault" because four years ago, if NASA wasn't suddenly forced to work with a continuing budget resolution, they would have been better able to stay on budget.







*And even now there are big issues about it. Independent cost estimates are not perfect, because they often force the managers to make estimates when they really have not fully defined the project and that could be bad. It is entirely possible to rule out perfectly good mission concepts because you mistakenly--yes, MISTAKENLY--think that they will cost a lot of money, when in reality they may not cost all that much. Mission design and cost estimation is an iterative process, and you have to be careful to not nail things down too early.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2013 10:28 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #306 on: 01/14/2013 11:36 pm »
However, the basics of that story should be verifiable. I am sure that if you dug through Space News (hard to find issues past a few years ago, they're not online) or Aviation Week (easier) from around 2005 or so you could find at least one article that refers to the delay and the Boeing protest over the launch vehicle. You probably would have a difficult time finding information supporting the claim that the delay in selecting a launch vehicle cost as much as the "free" vehicle itself, but I strongly suspect that it is true.

I wrote the above. Just looked in Lexis:

Aviation Week & Space Technology
January 24, 2005
Tangled Webb
BYLINE: Edited by David Bond
SECTION: Washington Outlook; Pg. 19 Vol. 162 No. 4

"NASA managers say no decision has been made on a European offer to provide an Ariane 5 booster to launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due to replace Hubble in 2011. U.S. industry reportedly is pressing the agency to employ an American launch vehicle, even though it doesn't have to for international missions such as JWST. European Space Agency (ESA) science director David Southwood says his agency "has gone out on a limb to ensure the availability of the Ariane 5" at a cost of about 150 million euros ($195 million), and maintaining additional launcher options "could cost us all money."

Southwood acknowledges that it is probably too late to compensate by increasing ESA's role in the payload, which already includes the near-infrared spectrograph and part of the mid-IR instrument. If the U.S. declines the European launch offer, then it would face "a moral obligation" to give Europe more science time, Southwood suggests. NASA's associate administrator for science, Alphonso Diaz, says it will take two or three months to review the situation."


Offline Blackstar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #307 on: 01/14/2013 11:43 pm »
And then there's this:

Aviation Week & Space Technology
June 25, 2007
The European Space Agency has contracted

"The European Space Agency has contracted with the Russian Space Agency to acquire the first four Soyuz rockets for the launch pad being constructed at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch vehicles will be built by Samara and operated by Arianespace. ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain says he hopes to have the vehicles and pad ready for an initial launch by early 2009. Two Soyuz rockets are earmarked for launch of the first four Galileo in-orbit validation satellites in 2009, and Dordain reaffirmed his intent to orbit them from Kourou.

SNIP

ESA also inked a pair of agreements with NASA covering cooperation on space technologies ranging from highly sophisticated microthrusters to an Ariane V launch. Under one agreement, NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope will be launched as planned in 2013 on a European Ariane V ECA. The two agencies will split instrument development for the telescope, with NASA supplying the Near-Infrared Camera, ESA the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (using NASA detectors and microshutters) and the two sharing the load on the Mid-Infrared Instrument with a group of nationally funded European institutions. Canada will provide the Fine Guidance Sensor/Tuneable Filer Imager for the telescope."



Note that neither article I cited directly supports what I wrote earlier. The first article implies that there was some controversy over the launch vehicle. I think that NASA is required by law to buy US rockets, unless they can demonstrate that it is an international project. What I heard was that the launch vehicle decision got delayed while the whole thing was haggled over (Boeing wanted to sell a rocket to NASA) and this cost money.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #308 on: 01/16/2013 02:07 am »
Quote from: BlackStar
So it's not accurate to simplify all of this and say "The original estimate was X and the current estimate is 16X, and that's all NASA's fault" because ...

I'm not sure who made that quoted remark, but I agree that the blame for JWST's programmatic, budget, and schedule issues is spread far and wide.  As is commonly known, "funding instability", due to Congress or the Executive can have a major adverse effect on a NASA program. (Or even the national budget.)  It's hard to lend credibility to any interpretation that it's all NASA, or all Congress, or all any one cause that we have program cost and schedule bloat.  It's simply "not accurate".

It has been widely and credibly reported that various reports are deliberately "scrubbed" to meet perceived levels of political support.  Just because ...

Quote
... they did not write a dissent in their report where they said "The cost estimate is X but we do not believe it is accurate because..."

... doesn't mean that they were instructed not to object to the "optimistic" cost estimate, would it?  But:

What would be three possible explanations for "their" acceptance of what was clearly a low ball cost estimate for JWST?  1) They were instructed not to dissent; the estimate was deliberately scrubbed.  2) They really truly believed that their objections to the costing were minimimal and that the mission objectives could be met.  Just by thinking "bigger".  3) Some other explanation.  Like:  Blame Congress.  Or: Astronomy is hard.  Or: A billion dollars doesn't buy all that much. 

The "continuing resolution" excuse is starting to get tired.  For one thing, CR's seem to provide funding at the previous year's level at least.  For another, the CR "threat" to programs has been going on now for many many years.  It has come to be expected these days.  In any case, substituting the "CR" excuse for the "blame NASA" excuse is simply "not accurate" either.

Bottom line here is that I don't see much "worth" in looking at how the JWST cost estimate started out so low.  These are the salient questions:

When are they going to launch it?  How much will it end up costing?  If the answers to those questions are "not accurate", and not reliable, should it be cancelled?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Online Lar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #309 on: 01/16/2013 02:20 am »
When are they going to launch it?  How much will it end up costing?  If the answers to those questions are "not accurate", and not reliable, should it be cancelled?

Yes.
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #310 on: 01/16/2013 02:52 am »
When are they going to launch it?  How much will it end up costing?  If the answers to those questions are "not accurate", and not reliable, should it be cancelled?

Yes.

Wuzzat the answer to the first question?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Star One

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #311 on: 01/16/2013 05:56 pm »
When are they going to launch it?  How much will it end up costing?  If the answers to those questions are "not accurate", and not reliable, should it be cancelled?

Yes.

Only if you regard it as being in any way defensible to throw away the vast amount of taxpayers money already spent on it as a terribly good idea.

Offline ChileVerde

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #312 on: 01/16/2013 07:45 pm »
Only if you regard it as being in any way defensible to throw away the vast amount of taxpayers money already spent on it as a terribly good idea.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sunk_cost
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Online Lar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #313 on: 01/16/2013 08:49 pm »
Yes.

Wuzzat the answer to the first question?

No, the last one. ;)

Only if you regard it as being in any way defensible to throw away the vast amount of taxpayers money already spent on it as a terribly good idea.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sunk_cost
Right, sunk costs are never an argument for spending more, the decision should always be on the merits of the project.

Plus there may be some beneficial technology that can be extracted so it would not be an entirely wasted investment.
« Last Edit: 01/16/2013 08:51 pm by Lar »
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #314 on: 01/16/2013 10:31 pm »
Only if you regard it as being in any way defensible to throw away the vast amount of taxpayers money already spent on it as a terribly good idea.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sunk_cost

Yeah, but let's be real and admit that the people arguing that it is dumb to use sunk costs as a reason for continuing to do something are essentially shouting into the wind.

But I think there's also a valid point about sunk costs, because they are essentially an analogy for how much it will cost to do something if at some point you decide to do it again. Put another way, if NASA stops JWST and cancels the program, and then 10-15 years from now they decide they want to do a JWST equivalent, you can somewhat reasonably expect that it is going to cost as much as your sunk costs and your completion costs. It's a way of deciding that going ahead now is better than stopping and re-starting.

That said, the astronomy community was given a chance to re-visit the JWST decision. They decided that the JWST science was still of such importance that they wanted it to continue, even understanding what it meant to the rest of their priorities. Now that has a lot of caveats, because it would have really hurt their reputation if they had reversed course, and they might have had a hard time getting their next project instead. But they had their opportunity to sound off against JWST a few years ago and they decided to stay the course.

Offline ChileVerde

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #315 on: 01/17/2013 01:27 pm »
That said, the astronomy community was given a chance to re-visit the JWST decision. They decided that the JWST science was still of such importance that they wanted it to continue, even understanding what it meant to the rest of their priorities.

Yes, and that's what they should have done -- argue on the basis of expected future pay-off vs expected future cost at that point, not on the basis of monies spent up to that point.
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #316 on: 01/17/2013 02:17 pm »
That said, the astronomy community was given a chance to re-visit the JWST decision. They decided that the JWST science was still of such importance that they wanted it to continue, even understanding what it meant to the rest of their priorities.

Yes, and that's what they should have done -- argue on the basis of expected future pay-off vs expected future cost at that point, not on the basis of monies spent up to that point.

Which is a good principle, assuming a timely accomplishment of the project.  Remember that Hubble was way over budget and behind schedule too; worse, it was incorrectly built and had to be repaired once orbited.  After the pictures started coming in, more or less all was forgiven.

If JWST should be launched and operates flawlessly and they look way back in time towards the big bang; what if they spot God giving them the hairy eyeball?  Just sayin'; a lotta reputations are hanging on that possibility.

The serious point being that if there is no accomplishment, then there is no return.  The corollary question being; when would it be determined that enough is enough, regarding the continued time and money requested for the project?  There is a finite limit to that expected future value.
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #317 on: 01/17/2013 04:18 pm »
Yes, and that's what they should have done -- argue on the basis of expected future pay-off vs expected future cost at that point, not on the basis of monies spent up to that point.

There is, of course, a lot more to the story. Very soon after they produced their report (you can look up the dates if you're interested, but it was on the order of days, not weeks) NASA announced significantly higher costs for JWST. The committee was... surprised that these costs were so high, and that they were not told about them while they were still making their deliberations. This presented a problem, because their recommendations were based upon assumptions about how much money would be available for future space missions, and the JWST cost increases now meant that those assumptions were not valid.

Of course, that's Washington. Mike Griffin became NASA administrator and soon learned that the shuttle retirement was not going to free up as much money as everybody had been saying it would. The budgeteers suddenly "discovered" all kinds of extra costs only a few hours after O'Keefe left. Funny how that happens.
« Last Edit: 01/17/2013 04:18 pm by Blackstar »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #318 on: 01/17/2013 09:45 pm »
Very soon after they produced their report (you can look up the dates if you're interested, but it was on the order of days, not weeks) NASA announced significantly higher costs for JWST. The committee was... surprised that these costs were so high, and that they were not told about them while they were still making their deliberations.

Oh.

Which lends credence, I guess, to the theory that 2) They really truly believed that their objections to the costing were minimimal and that the mission objectives could be met.  Just by thinking "bigger".

And by "bigger", they meant bigger costs.
« Last Edit: 01/17/2013 09:46 pm by JohnFornaro »
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Offline Proponent

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Re: JWST: Albatross of SMD now $8.8 billion
« Reply #319 on: 01/20/2013 04:28 am »
There's not any realistic way to kill it, is there?

Probably not in the next couple of years, since JWST's biggest congressional supporter, Sen. Mikulski of Maryland, has just been appointed chairwoman of the appropriations committee.  That might change if the Democrats were to lose the Senate in 2014 or if Mikulski were not re-elected in 2016.

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