Washington – Nasa suffers from a "mismatch" between its goals and the
budget it has been given to achieve them, according to a panel that
said the US space agency may need a complete overhaul.
National Research Council, which convened an independent group of top US
scientists, urged the White House to set a clear agenda for the agency,
amid disagreement in the scientific community, and in the country as a
whole, regarding just where the agency should be going.
panel lamented "the lack of national consensus on Nasa’s most publicly
visible human spaceflight goal," Albert Carnesale, a professor at the
University of California at Los Angeles, who chaired the committee that
wrote the report, said.
“One stated goal for Nasa’s human
spaceflight program is to visit an asteroid by 2025,” he said, but he
noted that scientists inside the agency have questioned this objective.
seen limited evidence that this has been widely accepted as a
compelling destination by Nasa’s own work force, by the nation as a
whole, or by the international community,” he said.
of agreement, “along with budget uncertainty, has undermined the
agency's ability to guide programme planning and allocate funding,”
The study, which
was sponsored by Nasa, called on the White House to take the lead in
setting long term priorities for the US space agency.
panel flagged what it called “a mismatch between the portfolio of
programs and activities assigned to the agency, and the budget allocated
It added that “legislative restrictions inhibit Nasa from more efficiently managing its personnel and infrastructure”.
The panel said there were several possible ways to reduce the “mismatch,” though it acknowledged any path would be difficult.
scenario would involve “an aggressive restructuring program to reduce
infrastructure and personnel costs and improve efficiency,” the panel
Another would involve “more cost-sharing
partnerships with other US government agencies, private sector
industries, and international partners,” while a third possibility would
be to “increase the size of the Nasa budget.”
possibility the committee suggested was for the US administration to
considerably reduce the size and scope of Nasa’s portfolio to better fit
its current and anticipated budget.