NewsBrief: September 15, 2023

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: September 15, 2023

NASA Admits Space Launch System Costs Are Unsustainable

(ExtremeTech) NASA began developing the Space Launch System (SLS) in earnest when the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. This super-heavy-lift rocket will be key to NASA’s return to the moon, but the escalating costs have some inside and outside the agency concerned. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released a report that brands the SLS as “unsustainable.” NASA’s cost estimates at each stage have been very optimistic, and the GAO objects to the agency’s decision to monitor cost via the five-year production and operations cost estimate. The GAO report says these are poor tools to control costs, and NASA hasn’t even been consistent about updating the five-year estimates. Read More

DOD Financial Management: Improving Systems Planning and Oversight Could Improve Auditability

(US Government Accountability Office) For over 30 years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent billions of dollars each year to acquire and modernize financial management, logistics, and other business systems. DOD’s Fiscal Year 2023 IT and cyberspace budget includes $9.1 billion for business system investments. The goal of these efforts is to, among other things, improve management of DOD’s business processes, increase efficiency, modernize its supporting systems environment, and achieve a clean audit opinion (i.e. an independent auditor determines that financial statements were presented fairly in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles). Read More

The state of European security is about procurement, interoperability, and air and missile defense

(Breaking Defense) In the film Rocky, the Philly pugilist talks about what attracted him to Adrian. “She’s got gaps, I got gaps,” he says. They’re not the only ones. The US, Europe, and NATO also have gaps – supply chain gaps, air-and-missile-defense gaps, interoperability gaps, and munitions gaps, to name a few. Due to the conflict in Ukraine, these gaps have become all too evident. Filling them with capability, however, is now top of mind for the alliance. While only seven of NATO’s 30 member states met their 2 percent GDP defense spending target in 2022, with two other countries close behind, defense spending across NATO increased by 2.2 percent in real terms from 2021 to 2022. Read More

DOD Software Licenses: Better Guidance and Plans Needed to Ensure Restrictive Practices Are Mitigated

(US Government Accountability Office) Cloud computing offers on-demand access to shared IT resources like networks, servers, and databases. Federal agencies like DOD must move their data and software to the cloud when possible. But software licenses and restrictive vendor practices can limit or prevent such efforts. For example, some vendors charge extra fees to use their software with third-party cloud providers. DOD officials said that restrictive practices generally affected the cost of cloud services and their choice of cloud providers. We recommended that DOD update guidance and implement plans to lessen the effects that restrictions have on moving software to the cloud. Read More

Quantum clocks could revolutionize precision warfare within a decade: experts

(Breaking Defense) What difference does a nanosecond make? If you’re using your phone’s GPS to find the nearest Starbucks, not much. But for satellites zipping along in low orbit at five miles per second, radio waves moving at the speed of light, or AI chips doing billions of calculations per second, being off by one billionth of a second actually matters. That’s why the US military wants to move beyond the GPS timing signal — which is accurate to less than 30 nanoseconds, and which enemies can jam — to compact “quantum clocks,” small enough to fit in a missile warhead or small drone and accurate to the picosecond (one thousandth of a nanosecond) or beyond. Read More

Pandemic unemployment fraud as high as $135B, watchdog says

(Government Executive) Fraudulent unemployment insurance payouts during the pandemic amounted to $100 billion to $135 billion, according to an estimate from the Government Accountability Office included in a report released on Tuesday. The congressional watchdog produced the estimate based on sampling of pandemic unemployment insurance payouts and the use of a statistical model that took fraud risks into account. According to the report, as of May 1, just $1.2 billion in fraudulent overpayments have been recovered by states. The Department of Labor, in reply comments dated Aug. 28, 2023 that were included in the report, said GAO’s model “likely overestimates the level of fraud,” and took issue with the sampling methodology. Read More

Scientists may finally know why the sun’s outer atmosphere is so freakishly hot

( The highest reaches of the sun’s atmosphere are thousands of times hotter than its surface, and a new study reveals that this mysterious heat discrepancy could be explained by weak but steady waves propagating in the region. The “surface” of the sun — the photosphere, or sun’s visible part — is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 degrees Celsius). Oddly, however, even though it is farther away from the sun’s core, the uppermost part of the sun’s atmosphere — known as the corona — is much hotter, regularly reaching about 1.8 million to 3.6 million degrees F (1 million to 2 million degrees C). Sometimes, coronal temperatures even reach up to 72 million degrees F (40 million degrees C), according to NASA. Read More

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