Author Topic: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract  (Read 35282 times)

Offline edkyle99

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #40 on: 10/10/2018 07:10 pm »
Then size is an equally invalid metric for comparing them.
I'm not the one who was comparing them.  My original response was about the "unprecedented" bit.

 - Ed Kyle
Wha..? You just wrote.. (and I quoted it): "No liquid hydrogen stage has ever been this big, this long, this heavy, or produced this much thrust. "  So what aspect of what you write *is* a valid metric?
I wasn't the one comparing Core stage with Falcon 9 first stage.  That was someone else.  My initial post was a response to someone complaining about Boeing's tweet that talked about the "unprecedented" nature of its SLS work.  As I pointed out, Boeing's stage is unprecedented - the biggest, etc., of its type ever.  Can we get on to something else now?

 - Ed Kyle

Offline eeergo

Quote
From 2009 to 2016, a contracting officer exceeded his $2.5 million warrant by making multiple
unauthorized commitments in the amount of $318 million for contracts for Michoud operations,

Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage production, and advanced booster development. This
individual was also the primary contracting officer for the Boeing Stages contract. An issue with
exceeding warrants was initially discovered in December 2016 during an internal annual
self-assessment reviewed and signed by the Marshall procurement manager. However, this
situation was not acted upon or timely disclosed to NASA OIG as prescribed by the NASA FAR
Supplement.46 Based on an August 2017 referral from the Marshall Acquisition Integrity
Program, NASA OIG initiated an investigation and provided its findings to Marshall management
in October 2017.47 As a result, Marshall officials terminated the contracting officer’s warrant
and reassigned him pending final outcome of an inquiry into his actions and follow-up
negotiations to ratify the contractual actions committed over his warrant authority. As of
August 2018, Center management has not taken disciplinary action against the
contracting officer.

Why isn't this criminal embezzlement of funds (approximately the cost of a Discovery-class mission), which I very much doubt hasn't profited this individual directly, causing said individual to be put in jail and Boeing's profits from NASA's contract curtailed by the same amount?

This clearly isn't incompetence or has anything to do with rockets.

Offline Proponent

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #42 on: 10/10/2018 07:30 pm »
What the heck is wrong with Boeing?  This situation is similar to the KC-46 tanker plane -- a project also based on pre-existing hardware, namely Boeing's own plane, that is massively over budget and over deadline.

How is this a problem for Boeing?  While I'm sure many honest, hard-working Boeing employees would like to see their handiwork fly, Boeing is a corporation with a responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as possible.  Boeing has no competition for SLS.  Everything is going well from a corporate point of view.  There will be a minor PR flap about the OIG's report, but that's a tempest in a teapot.

If things get so bad that SLS is cancelled, that's another matter.  But Congress has continued to love SLS over the years despite delays and overruns.  Even if the reaction is different this time (highly unlikely, IMO), actual cancellation is many quarters away.

Quote
What is the point of using a Shuttle-derived design if this is the result?[

Exactly.  If the thread discussing ultimate names for SLS were still open, I might, on the strength of the OIG's report, suggest some flightless birds.  Perhaps, in particular, one that many Americans will be consuming late next month.

EDIT:  "there" -> "their" in second sentence.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2018 08:01 pm by Proponent »

Offline eeergo


How is this a problem for Boeing?  While I'm sure many honest, hard-working Boeing employees would like to see there handiwork fly, Boeing is a corporation with a responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as possible.  Boeing has no competition for SLS.  Everything is going well from a corporate point of view.  There will be a minor PR flap about the OIG's report, but that's a tempest in a teapot.

If things get so bad that SLS is cancelled, that's another matter.  But Congress has continued to love SLS over the years despite delays and overruns.  Even if the reaction is different this time (highly unlikely, IMO), actual cancellation is many quarters away.

Not such a big issue if, as gossiping tongues whisper, the whole thing is privatized after spending as close as possible to 100% of the allowed funds (or new appropriations), Boeing finishes development "by itself", with part of the funds already in its pocket (the ones that didn't go to profit) and with a bit of luck gets paid for "providing" every mission to NASA.
-DaviD-

Offline AncientU

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #44 on: 10/10/2018 07:48 pm »

How is this a problem for Boeing?  While I'm sure many honest, hard-working Boeing employees would like to see there handiwork fly, Boeing is a corporation with a responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as possible.  Boeing has no competition for SLS.  Everything is going well from a corporate point of view.  There will be a minor PR flap about the OIG's report, but that's a tempest in a teapot.

If things get so bad that SLS is cancelled, that's another matter.  But Congress has continued to love SLS over the years despite delays and overruns.  Even if the reaction is different this time (highly unlikely, IMO), actual cancellation is many quarters away.

Not such a big issue if, as gossiping tongues whisper, the whole thing is privatized after spending as close as possible to 100% of the allowed funds (or new appropriations), Boeing finishes development "by itself", with part of the funds already in its pocket (the ones that didn't go to profit) and with a bit of luck gets paid for "providing" every mission to NASA.

Fine.  $500M per mission, all included.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2018 07:50 pm by AncientU »
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Offline Lar

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #45 on: 10/10/2018 07:51 pm »
(mod) General bashing of NASA, Boeing, Congress, or whoever....
(fan) however warranted,
(mod) is probably not appropriate. Not here. Stick to dissecting specific facts and take pillow crying to FB, Twitter, or your blog,

Thank you.  This was more of a preemptive message than a specific callout of specific people.
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Offline Tulse

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #46 on: 10/10/2018 07:52 pm »
Boeing finishes development "by itself", with part of the funds already in its pocket (the ones that didn't go to profit) and with a bit of luck gets paid for "providing" every mission to NASA.
The last thing Boeing wants is to use SLS to compete on the open market for launch services.

Offline eeergo

Boeing finishes development "by itself", with part of the funds already in its pocket (the ones that didn't go to profit) and with a bit of luck gets paid for "providing" every mission to NASA.
The last thing Boeing wants is to use SLS to compete on the open market for launch services.

Unless the market isn't open because there are no other such vehicles in the immediate timeframe considered.
-DaviD-

Offline Endeavour_01

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #48 on: 10/10/2018 07:58 pm »
Incredibly disappointing to say the least but as one of the few SLS fans on this site I see at least one silver lining.

Quote from: OIG
"Cost increases and schedule delays of Core Stage development can be traced largely to management, technical, and infrastructure issues driven by Boeing’s poor performance."

I have long believed that a change in management practices from NASA and Boeing would go a long way to curbing the delays and cost overruns the SLS program has been experiencing. In other words building the rocket itself isn't really the main problem, its how the program is being run. This report seems to confirm my beliefs.

What is needed here is a firm hand at the tiller. It remains to be seen if Bridenstine et. al are able to change the management culture of the program. If better management is not forthcoming the SLS program is in serious danger of cancellation.

Edited to add: One of the things that should happen as a result of this report is a reassignment of the EUS to another company (like BO) as a consequence of Boeing's poor performance.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2018 07:59 pm by Endeavour_01 »
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #49 on: 10/10/2018 08:01 pm »
Why isn't this criminal embezzlement of funds (approximately the cost of a Discovery-class mission)...

Large government contractors like Boeing have employees that are professionals in the realm of how to extract - in legal ways - the maximum value from a government customer. Again, IN LEGAL WAYS.

Quote
...which I very much doubt hasn't profited this individual directly, causing said individual to be put in jail and Boeing's profits from NASA's contract curtailed by the same amount?

It will be interesting to see if someone finally opens an investigation into the government employee (and their superiors) concerning them exceeding their contract authority. There are supposed to be checks and balances for that type of stuff, and clearly they didn't work.

And if Boeing was found to be in cahoots with the employee, they could be found liable for a lot of money.

Quote
This clearly isn't incompetence or has anything to do with rockets.

Some is, but let's not forget that important parts of the design of the SLS was mandated by Congress - and Congress has been happy in funding the SLS so far, so this may not be a problem for Congress. And if you don't like that - if that type of behavior is appalling to you - then research who you should and should not have representing you in Congress this November and VOTE!

Assuming you are an American who can...  ;)
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online envy887

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #50 on: 10/10/2018 08:03 pm »
If the unprecedented aspects of SLS's design are causing this much trouble, then they destroy the rationale for basing it on the Shuttle precedent.
That rationale went out the window in 2010, when they dropped the "4/3" idea in favor of a common core design for all "Blocks".  They had to have a bigger core to eventually get to the 130 ton Congressional criteria.  This choice only pays off if they ever get to Block 1B and beyond.

 - Ed Kyle

Bigger boosters could also reach 130 t with a smaller core. They need bigger boosters anyway, they will will never get to 130 t with this core and boosters.

So at best, it only partially pays off by saving some (but not all) of booster development costs down the road.

Offline Tulse

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #51 on: 10/10/2018 08:07 pm »
The last thing Boeing wants is to use SLS to compete on the open market for launch services.

Unless the market isn't open because there are no other such vehicles in the immediate timeframe considered.
The timeframe that an actually flying SLS would have no competition will be very short indeed, and that's presuming that it doesn't actually get beaten to flight.

Offline Proponent

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #52 on: 10/10/2018 08:19 pm »
One of the things that should happen as a result of this report is a reassignment of the EUS to another company (like BO) as a consequence of Boeing's poor performance.

That might even be possible, given that BO has taken the politically astute step of setting up shop in Alabama.

Online envy887

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #53 on: 10/10/2018 08:22 pm »
The last thing Boeing wants is to use SLS to compete on the open market for launch services.

Unless the market isn't open because there are no other such vehicles in the immediate timeframe considered.
The timeframe that an actually flying SLS would have no competition will be very short indeed, and that's presuming that it doesn't actually get beaten to flight.

It's already past, despite what some claim.

Offline Lar

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #54 on: 10/10/2018 08:30 pm »
One of the things that should happen as a result of this report is a reassignment of the EUS to another company (like BO) as a consequence of Boeing's poor performance.

That might even be possible, given that BO has taken the politically astute step of setting up shop in Alabama.
Lucky guess,  prescient, or based on non public prior negotiations for EUS that have been going longer than we realized? Who knows... but astute is certainly a good summation.
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Online rst

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #55 on: 10/10/2018 08:55 pm »
That might even be possible, given that BO has taken the politically astute step of setting up shop in Alabama.
Lucky guess,  prescient, or based on non public prior negotiations for EUS that have been going longer than we realized? Who knows... but astute is certainly a good summation.

Alabama businesses are working a whole lot of government contracts which Blue might want to muscle in on, while still keeping the work in the districts of its very active Congressional sponsors. SLS work might be on the list, but probably not near the top.

(Edit: rearranged to get quoting right)
« Last Edit: 10/10/2018 08:57 pm by rst »

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #56 on: 10/10/2018 08:57 pm »
Edited to add: One of the things that should happen as a result of this report is a reassignment of the EUS to another company (like BO) as a consequence of Boeing's poor performance.

First NASA would have to agree with this report, and there would have to be a finding of some sort beyond the OIG report that Boeing has performed so badly that they either A) need to be punished financially, or B) are not perceived as being competent enough to build the EUS.

I don't see either of those happening.

In fact I don't think anything substantial will happen to Boeing from this report - the contracts they have will stay, and Congress will keep shoveling money to the SLS program regardless of how poorly the money is being spent, or the lack of need for it's capabilities.

There will eventually be a trigger event that will inspire a real review of the SLS program, but I doubt this is it...
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Offline speedevil

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #57 on: 10/10/2018 09:11 pm »
There will eventually be a trigger event that will inspire a real review of the SLS program, but I doubt this is it...
Quite.
It's bad, but not in ways which make it meaningfully more expensive - paradoxically - because the capability is so low and the assumed price of any payloads is so high that going from a billion to a billion and a half dollars per launch (or whatever) makes little difference to the overall mission cost, which is often ill-defined anyway.

Mere 'normal' expense and delays are not going to get this thing grounded. The delays and overruns and problems are more-or-less comparable with JWST, for example.

I have no confidence that re-competing the EUS will do much.
It needs to die. (or become at least three times cheaper)

But I would be extremely surprised to see it cancelled before the dozenth flight of BFS (or NA).


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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #58 on: 10/10/2018 09:11 pm »
I have long believed that a change in management practices from NASA and Boeing would go a long way to curbing the delays and cost overruns the SLS program has been experiencing. In other words building the rocket itself isn't really the main problem, its how the program is being run. This report seems to confirm my beliefs.

What is needed here is a firm hand at the tiller. It remains to be seen if Bridenstine et. al are able to change the management culture of the program. If better management is not forthcoming the SLS program is in serious danger of cancellation.

Edited to add: One of the things that should happen as a result of this report is a reassignment of the EUS to another company (like BO) as a consequence of Boeing's poor performance.

Bill Gerstenmaier's defensive response is not promising. If Gerst cannot lead a change in NASA HSF management culture, then who can?

Anybody other than Boeing might find it difficult to adapt their upper stage avionics to control the SLS core stage and solid boosters. I suspect this might be a problem for Blue Origin delivering an upper stage for SLS, but maybe I'm overestimating the dependence of the SLS stack on the upper stage avionics?
« Last Edit: 10/10/2018 09:12 pm by butters »

Offline Proponent

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Re: OIG report on NASA management of Boeing SLS contract
« Reply #59 on: 10/10/2018 10:03 pm »
In fact I don't think anything substantial will happen to Boeing from this report - the contracts they have will stay, and Congress will keep shoveling money to the SLS program regardless of how poorly the money is being spent, or the lack of need for it's capabilities.

Indeed, consider JWST, the performance of which is perhaps even worse that SLS's to date.  The prime contractor's CEO was hauled in front of Congress recently.  I'm sure there are plenty of ways the CEO would have preferred to spend his morning, but to my knowledge Northrup Grumman has not suffered any harm.

The OIG's report on SLS is just the latest of series of reports identifying problems with SLS, beginning with the prophetic Booz Allen Hamilton report issued before SLS was formally begun.  Previous reports have not even registered with Congress.  Even if Congress's reaction to this report is ten times stronger than to any previous report, Boeing's SLS contract is in no particular danger.

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