August 30, 2011 Vol. 4, Issue 6
NASA and the Department of Defense (DOD) should undertake periodic assessments to correct parts quality problems in their programs, according to the General Accountability Office (GAO).
GAO examined 5 DOD satellite systems, 4 DOD missile defense systems, and 12 NASA systems and found that parts quality problems affected all of them on some level. Nearly two-thirds (64.7%) of the quality problems were identified in electronic parts, with the remaining one-third split between materials (20.6%) and mechanical parts (14.7%). GAO identified the causes as “poor workmanship, undocumented and untested manufacturing processes, poor control of those processes and materials and failure to prevent contamination, poor part design, design complexity, and an inattention to manufacturing risks.”
GAO also identified several barriers to improvement, including broad acquisition management problems, diffuse leadership in the national security space community, workforce gaps, the government’s decreasing influence on the overall electronic parts market, and an increase in counterfeiting of electronic parts.