02 December 2004
Nasa's procurement function is at the forefront of a major effort to shake up the US space agency, the conference heard.
In the past, money had been no object for the publicly funded body, said Tom Luedtke, who leads procurement from its headquarters in Washington DC. But the agency was now billions of dollars in debt and urgently needed to get a grip on its costs.
A large proportion of Nasa's operations are already outsourced. Up to 80 per cent of employees (mainly scientists and engineers) at sites such as the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are contractors, rather than civil servants, Luedtke said.
This, combined with federal law dictating that all buying decisions had to go through procurement, made it "a point of leverage when government wants to change the agency".
One of the longer-term options being considered was "a virtual organisation run entirely by contractors", he explained.
In the meantime, a shared service centre with around 500 mainly contracted procurement and other support staff was being created to replace 10 individual locations around the country. A decision as to which site would get the contract would be made by spring 2005.