NASA and Integrated Financial Management Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2705 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Astronomy

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] However, the landing on the moon and the decline of the Cold War, among other factors, initiated changes in NASA's direction. Budget cuts caused officials to become more concerned about the survival of the space agency. NASA was forced to subcontract research and development that was previously conducted in-house (McCurdy).

As funding and accountability to Congress became an issue, the agency's mantra of encouraging risk and tolerating failure declined. Congress and the public wanted to see successful and dramatic programs, such as Apollo. However, high-profile failures like the 1967 Apollo fire and later, the Challenger explosion raised doubt on the feasibility and safety of the space program (McCurdy).

As a result, McCurdy observes, "professional employees watched the tolerance for risk and failure decrease at a time when their space vehicles and platforms grew more complex and prone to breakdowns" (164).

Furthermore, as more private and university-based institutions conducted their own research in space science, NASA faced stiff competition in terms of recruiting the brightest employees. The various centers began to work in partnership with other institutions, furthering the decentralization of NASA.

All these factors combined to change NASA from an agency mandated with the "concentrated responsibility for civilian space and aeronautical activities" to a "confederation of cultures" (McCurdy: 171). NASA currently contains people with differing organizational principles, without the strong central philosophy that unified it earlier. In its place is an agency which, despite overlapping mandates, remains separate entities in areas like budget and administration.

Road to One NASA

NASA itself recognizes the problems spawned by their bureaucratic growth. To address these problems, the agency has launched the ONE NASA program, an effort "to foster greater collaboration across the agency" (Stephenson). This employee-based initiative aims to address several of the criticisms levied against the agency, including wastage caused by duplication of tasks and effort, the decreasing trust and teamwork within NASA itself and the need to increase the agency's credibility with the public.

Set for implementation within the year, NASA employees hope that the program will make more resources available for research, increase collaboration between the various Center employees and facilitate the sharing of information with other Centers and with Headquarters. More significantly, ONE NASA aims to lessen the "time and energy spent on 'turf' battles" (Stephenson).

The ONE NASA program complements the Integrated Financial Management Program (IFMP), an agency-wide project aimed at modernizing NASA's financial and administrative system ("IFMP FAQs").

Part of the reason behind NASA's fragmentation is logistical. Before the advancement of information technology, each Center necessarily had to maintain its own books, manage its own staff and procure its own supplies. However, the new enterprise software systems developed for the IFMP will both increase employee productivity, facilitate inter-agency cooperation and improve fiscal and management accountability ("IFMP FAQs).

The IFMP will change the way many NASA divisions operate. For example, it will restructure the way the various Human Resources offices recruit new staff, through techniques like providing referral lists to outside professional hiring personnel and generating job postings on the Internet ("IFMP FAQs"). This vigorous approach to recruitment can help address the loss of the best potential employees to private research institutions.

Given the current budget cuts facing the agency, IFMP will also help in reining in unnecessary spending related to procurement of materials for NASA. This new technology can streamline the procurement process - from purchasing to receiving to payment. In addition, the IFMP can also serve as a central clearing house for all the agency's assets, eliminating the need to procure materials which could be borrowed or bought with less expense from other NASA Centers.

The IFMP plan will also provide NASA with the knowledge and tools to support the formulation of more realistic budgets, given the current political climate and the ensuring cuts in spending.

In many ways the IFMP will serve as NASA's information technology backbone. By integrating the agency's information processes, the IFMP hopes to make information available instantly to management officials, facilitating decisions in "real time." These new systems will increase collaboration between the Centers, allowing each NASA unit to benefit from the business knowledge and research done by its other counterparts.

This new, integrative technology understandably gives rise to fears like agency downsizing and job loss. After all, the IFMP team is tasked with identifying and eliminating redundancy within the various NASA centers. It should be noted, however, that budget cuts threaten many redundant jobs anyway. However, both the ONE NASA project and the IFMP have the potential to both identify areas within NASA that are understaffed. In theory, both ONE NASA and IFMP can aid in redistributing current human resources to these neglected areas around the various NASA centers.

More important, the IFMP calls for a shift in NASA culture, one from a separate "confederation of cultures" back to, ideally, the unified "frontier mentality" that characterized the early years of NASA.

Such a shift in an ingrained organizational culture is never easy. For NASA, the change from a strongly centralized agency towards the current fragmented structure heralded a corresponding decline in both the agency's output and vision.

To aid in the transition back to a more unified NASA, the IFMP also creates a "Change Management" team, charged with teaching employees the software, integrating the new technology into the current NASA culture and helping the various centers adapt. Also, the IFMP is being implemented in stages, to ensure that the Centers and individual employees have time to adjust ("IFMP FAQs").

Conclusion

In conclusion, it should be noted that the vaunted early NASA culture was not produced in a vacuum. It was built on an amalgam of Cold War threats, values built during the Great Depression and great public support of space exploration. It inherited a tight management style from the Armed Forces. These factors did not spring overnight. In many ways, the early culture of NASA took over two decades to develop.

Correspondingly, the fragmentation of NASA was also spread out over several decades. Increasing government interference, budget cuts and the decline of the Cold War caused NASA to change its organizational culture to ensure its survival.

The efforts to reinstate a more unified NASA are laudable, but they will also take time. However, the current NASA management has a clearer understanding of the importance of organizational culture and is taking steps to bridge the change. This gives them a greater chance of initiating positive changes, creating a less bureaucratic and more streamlined agency.

Whether or not this fragmentation can be reversed without causing the decline in performance that plagued NASA's second generation remains to be seen. Programs like the Integrated Financial Management Plan are steps in the right direction.

Works Cited

Bell, Mary F. (2002). NASA's Organization: Introducing NASA Personnel, Programs, and Facilities. Washington, DC: NASA Headquarters Department of Public Affairs.

Bromberg, Joan Lisa (1999). NASA and the Space Industry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Integrated Financial Management Program (2003). IFMP Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 10 February 2003 at http://ifmp.nasa.gov/faq/faq.html.

McCurdy, Howard E. (1993). Inside NASA: High Technology and Organizational Change in the U.S. Space Program. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press

Stephenson, Johnny (2003). One NASA… [END OF PREVIEW]

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