WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation sent a letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova and National Science Board (NSB) Chairman Daniel E. Arvizu requesting agency documents related to the financial management of large research facility cooperative agreements.
“Federally-funded research facilities contribute to important areas of science and engineering…[n]onetheless the [Office of Inspector General (OIG)] has identified accountability over large facility cooperative agreements as a top NSF management and performance challenge for Fiscal Year 2015,” wrote Thune and Nelson. “As part of the Committee’s oversight function, and to assure Congress and the American public that NSF is prioritizing the financial management of large facility cooperative agreements, the Committee requests the information described below.”
1. Please provide all internal policies and procedures governing the approval and oversight of large facility cooperative agreements, including end-to-end cost surveillance, from Fiscal Year 2010 through the present.
2. Please provide documents detailing agency responses, including prior and current positions, to the recommendations made by the NSF OIG, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and CliftonLarsonAllen pertaining to large facility cooperative agreements from Fiscal Year 2010 to the present.
3. Please identify each active large facility cooperative agreement with a National Science Board approved award amount totaling $200 million or more.
4. For each large facility cooperative agreement identified under 3, please provide the annual project reports, business system reviews, cost proposal reviews, sufficiency reviews, incurred cost audits, and any other financial reviews from Fiscal Year 2012 to the present.
5. For each large facility cooperative agreement identified under 3, please provide a full accounting of funds that NSF has requested or plans to request to be returned, as well as any funds returned, from Fiscal Year 2010 to the present.
6. Please provide any plans for an external review of the NSF’s management of large facility cooperative agreements.
Through cooperative agreements, NSF funds the construction and operation of large research facilities by non-government entities. Multiple NSF inspector general reviews have recommended improved procedures for estimating and tracking facility costs. According to the NSF inspector general, based on a review of only four of these agreements totaling more than $1.4 billion, the agency lacked sufficient cost information to ensure that project construction budgets were a fair and reasonable cost billed to taxpayers. While the NSF has recently committed to making some improvements, the Committee continues to be concerned about proper accounting of facility budgets and efficient use of taxpayer dollars to maximize federal research investment.
The Senate Commerce Committee has authorization and oversight jurisdiction over NSF.
Click here for the full document request letter from Thune and Nelson to NSF and NSB.