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NPR 7120.8A
Effective Date: September 14, 2018
Expiration Date: September 14, 2028
Printable Format (PDF)

Subject: NASA Research and Technology Program and Project Management Requirements (Revalidated w/change 5)

Responsible Office: Associate Administrator

| TOC | ChangeLog | Preface | Chapter1 | Chapter2 | Chapter3 | Chapter4 | Chapter5 | AppendixA | AppendixB | AppendixC | AppendixD | AppendixE | AppendixF | AppendixG | AppendixH | AppendixI | AppendixJ | AppendixK | AppendixL | AppendixM | ALL |

Chapter 5. General Management Principles

5.1 Overview

This chapter contains general management principles that are applicable to programs and projects: roles and responsibilities, how to handle dissenting opinions, how the technical authorities interact with the program/projects, research practices, how to handle waivers, and the use of the metric system.

5.2 Roles and Responsibilities

5.2.1 Overview of Roles and Responsibilities The roles and responsibilities of senior management are defined in NPD 1000.0 and NPD 1000.3, The NASA Organization. This section delineates the roles and responsibilities specific to carrying out the requirements of this NPR. It is important for the program manager and project manager to coordinate early and throughout the program and project life cycles with mission support organizations at NASA HQ and the implementing Centers. These mission support organizations include legal, procurement, safety, security, finance, export control, human resources, public affairs, international affairs, property, facilities, environmental, aircraft operations, cybersecurity, and others. They provide essential expertise and ensure compliance with relevant laws, treaties, Executive Orders, and regulations. Refer to Appendix M as a guide to relevant documents.

5.2.2 Specific Roles and Responsibilities The NASA Associate Administrator (AA) is responsible for oversight of all Agency programs at the Agency level, chairing the Agency PMC, and serving as the program DA for the Program Approval KDP and program Implementation Phase in accordance with Table 3-1. The NASA AA approves the program PCA. Within the Office of the NASA AA, the NASA CPMO establishes policy, oversight, and assessment of the NASA program and project management processes.

a. The NASA AA may delegate responsibilities to the MDAA as documented in the PCA and Program Plan or other retrievable program documentation.

b. The NASA AA or MDAA may direct the use of NPR 7120.5 in lieu of this NPR for any R&T investment. MDAAs are responsible for overseeing program and project performance within their directorate, chairing the DPMC, and reporting status periodically to Agency-level management. They establish directorate policies applicable to programs, projects, and supporting elements; appoint and delegate functions within their directorate; and establish program and project budgets. In accordance with tables 3-1 and 4-1, MDAAs serve as the DA for the program Authority to Proceed KDP and during the program Formulation Phase and as the DA for projects. MDAAs are responsible for approving the program-level requirements, program FAD, project scope, and the Program and Project Plans and for concurring on the program PCA. MDAAs are responsible for planning and managing independent assessments for programs and projects in their portfolio, organizing and staffing independent assessment review teams, and monitoring execution of the assessments with support as needed from Centers, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and OCE.8 If delegated decision authority for directorate programs, the MDAA determines the need to modify or end the program and, in the case of termination, makes a recommendation to the NASA AA. If MDAAs elect to delegate their authority, the delegation should be documented and retained in retrievable program or project documentation.

8 Reference the "NASA Independent Assessment Principles and Approach" white paper approved at the APMC held on May 18, 2016, which can be found on the OCE menu under the "Other Policy Documents" tab in NODIS. Center Directors are responsible for establishing, developing, and maintaining the institutional capabilities (processes and procedures, human capital, facilities, aircraft, and infrastructure) required for the execution of programs and projects, including the system of checks and balances to ensure technical and scientific accuracy of the portion of the programs and projects that are conducted at their Center or specifically assigned to their Center by NASA HQ. (See Section 5.4 for technical authority role.) Center Director responsibilities include:

a. Ensuring compliance with Center scientific processes, specifications, rules, practices, and other activities necessary to ensure the quality of results from R&T programs and projects.

b. Establishing and maintaining ongoing processes and forums, including the CMC, to monitor the status and progress of programs and projects and assess their progress to ensure performance in accordance with their Center’s and the Agency’s requirements, procedures, and processes.

c. Working with the Mission Directorate and the programs and project managers, once assigned, to assemble the program/project team(s) and to provide needed Center resources.

d. Providing support and guidance to programs and projects in resolving technical and programmatic issues and risks; and

e. Supporting Mission Directorates to plan and manage independent assessments. The NASA Chief Engineer is responsible for the establishment of policy, oversight, and assessment of the NASA engineering processes; implements the engineering technical authority process; serves as principal advisor to the Administrator and other senior officials on matters pertaining to the technical capability and readiness of NASA programs and projects to execute according to plans; directs the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC); and directs programs/projects to respond to requests from the NESC for data and information needed to make independent technical assessments and to respond to these assessments. The NASA Chief Financial Officer oversees all financial management, budget, strategic planning, and performance activities relating to the programs, projects, and operations of the Agency. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer provides Agency programmatic (cost and schedule) analysis capability leadership; establishes cost policies; analyzes and monitors the methods, standards, and processes used to record cost as well as the project life-cycle schedule. The OCFO also assists in identifying personnel with analytical expertise to support in-line programmatic activities of NASA programs, projects, and independent assessments. The Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer is responsible to ensure the existence of robust Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) processes and activities through the development, implementation, assessment, and functional oversight of Agency-wide safety, reliability, maintainability, and quality assurance policies and procedures; serves as principal advisor to the Administrator and other senior officials on Agency-wide safety, reliability, maintainability, and quality assurance matters; performs independent program and project compliance verification audits; and implements the SMA technical authority process. The Chief Health and Medical Officer (CHMO) is responsible for policy formulation, oversight, coordination, and assessment on all NASA health and medical matters in all environments; implements the Health and Medical Technical Authority (HMTA) process; and serves as principal advisor to both the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator on health and medical requirements, matters of astronaut health, research subject protection, and matters to ensure the mental and physical health and well-being of the NASA workforce in all environments. The Agency Chief Information Officer directs, manages, and provides policy guidance and oversight of the Agency's Center CIOs' activities and operations, including, in concurrence with Center Directors, approving assignment, promotion, discipline, and relief of the principal CIO at each Center and assessment of their performance. The ACIO also leads and implements NASA's Cybersecurity Program, ensuring appropriate confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all NASA's information assets throughout the system life cycle. The Agency CIO exercises Mission Support Authority for IT and signs the Authority to Operate (ATO) IT systems (e.g., corporate, mission, ground, air, and space). This authorization is the official management decision given by a senior organizational official to authorize operation of an information system and to explicitly accept the risk to organizational operations (including mission, functions, image, or reputation), organizational assets, individuals, other organizations, and the Nation based on implementing an agreed-upon set of security controls. Because most system security requirements originate from law and are necessary for the protection of the program/project, the Agency, and in some cases the Nation, only the Agency CIO or designee has the authority to approve waivers or tailoring to OCIO requirements. See NPR 2800.1 for additional aspects of IT authority. The program manager oversees program level planning and integration, as appropriate, to support the MDAA in the project selection process, either assigned or through a competitive process. (The MDAA may delegate the authority for project selection. This delegation is documented in the PCA or Program Plan.) The program manager is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the program in accordance with the FAD, PCA, and the Program Plan (or equivalent). The program manager conducts internal reviews and supports key decision points and independent assessments and other required reviews. The program manager conducts the following activities:

a. Updates the Program Plan.

b. Executes the Program Plan.

c. Conducts planning, program-level systems engineering and integration, as appropriate, to support the project selection process, either assigned or through a competitive process.

d. Concurs on project scope (or equivalent) and Project Plans.

e. Plans, prepares for, and supports ATP, Program Approval, Closeout, PARs, PSRs, and IAs as identified in the Program Plan,

f. Provides oversight of the projects within the program and reports their status periodically.

g. Reviews and approves annual project budget submission inputs and prepares annual program budget submissions.

h. Performs any DA functions delegated by the DA. The project manager is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the project in accordance with the project scope and the Project Plan. The project manager conducts internal reviews and supports key decision points and independent assessments and other required reviews. The project manager conducts the following activities:

a. Develops, submits, updates, and executes the Project Plan.

b. Conducts planning, project-level systems engineering and integration to support the project selection process, either assigned or through a competitive process.

c. Plans, prepares for, and supports ATP, Project Approval, Closeout, CAs, PPRs, and IAs as identified in the Project Plan,

d. Ensures publication of results of NASA research investments whenever possible. The project Safety & Mission Assurance (S&MA) Lead is responsible for the implementation of safety, reliability, maintainability, and quality assurance policies and procedures and serves as advisor to the project manager and implements the SM&A technical authority process.

5.3 Process for Handling Dissenting Opinions

5.3.1 MDAAs and program and project managers shall ensure dissenting opinions are elevated through the Formal Dissent Process described in this section in accordance with the principles that NASA teams have full and open discussions with all facts made available, understand and assess issues, and foster and respect diverse views in an environment of integrity and trust with no suppression or retribution.

5.3.2 Unresolved issues of any nature (e.g., programmatic, safety, engineering, health and medical, acquisition, or accounting) within a team should be quickly elevated to achieve resolution at the appropriate level. In the team environment in which NASA operates, team members often have to determine where they stand on a decision. In assessing a decision or action, a team member has three choices: agree, disagree but be willing to fully support the decision, or disagree and raise a Dissenting Opinion. At the discretion of the dissenting person(s), a decision may be appealed to the next higher level of management for resolution.

5.3.3 When time permits, the disagreeing parties jointly document the issue, including agreed-to facts, discussion of the differing positions with rationale and impacts and the parties’ recommendations. The joint documentation is approved by the representative of each view, concurred with by affected parties, and provided to the next higher level of the involved authorities with notification to the second higher level of management. This may involve a single authority (e.g., the Programmatic Authority) or multiple authorities (e.g., Programmatic and Technical Authority), program/project management and the appropriate Technical Authority (TA) with notification to the second-higher level of management. In cases of urgency, the disagreeing parties may jointly present the information stated above orally with all affected organizations represented, advance notification to the second-higher level of management, and documentation follow-up.

5.3.4 Management’s decision/action on the dissent memorandum (or oral presentation) is documented and provided to the dissenter and to the notified managers and becomes part of the program or project record. If the dissenter is not satisfied with the process or outcome, the dissenter may appeal to the next-higher level of management. The dissenter has the right to take the issue upward in the organization, even to the NASA Administrator, if necessary.

5.4 Technical Authority

5.4.1 The NASA governance model prescribes a management structure that employs checks and balances among key organizations to ensure that decisions have the benefit of different points of view and are not made in isolation. This structure is made up of two authorities: Programmatic Authority and Institutional Authority. Programmatic Authority consists of the Mission Directorates and their respective programs and projects. The Institutional Authority consists of those organizations not in the Programmatic Authority. As part of Institutional Authority, NASA established the TA process as a system of checks and balances to provide independent oversight of programs and projects in support of safety and mission success through the selection of specific individuals with delegated levels of authority. The technical authority process is another means by which NASA maintains the technical integrity of its R&T programs and projects.

5.4.2 TA originates with the Administrator and is formally delegated to the NASA AA and then to the NASA Chief Engineer for Engineering Technical Authority (ETA); the Chief, Safety and Mission Assurance for SMA Technical Authority; and then to the Center Directors. The Administrator delegates HMTA to the NASA CHMO. Subsequent TA delegations are made to selected individuals who are funded independent of the Programmatic Authority.

5.4.3 The technical authority process provides for the selection of individuals at different levels of responsibility who maintain independent authority to ensure that proper technical standards are utilized in the performance of any R&T program or project tasks at the Center. In this document, the term TA is used to refer to such an individual but also is used (without capitalization) to refer to all the elements of the technical authority process taken together. There are three distinct types of TAs: Engineering TAs, SMA TAs, and HMTAs, each of whom is discussed in this section. A key aspect of the technical authority process is that the TAs are funded independently of the program/project. The ETA establishes and is responsible for the engineering design processes, specifications, rules, best practices, etc., necessary to fulfill programmatic mission performance requirements. The NASA Chief Engineer provides overall leadership of the engineering technical authority process for NASA R&T programs and projects. This includes technical policy direction, requirements, and verification of technical authority process implementation. It may also include concurrence with the technical management oversight approach in the Project Plan. The ETA may also provide guidance on which control plans for the program/project are needed and whether they should be a stand-alone document or incorporated into other documents such as the Project Plan. The NASA Chief Engineer hears appeals of the Engineering Technical Authority’s decisions when they cannot be resolved at lower levels. The SMA TA establishes and is responsible for the SMA design processes, specifications, rules, best practices, etc., necessary to fulfill programmatic mission performance requirements. To ensure independence, SMA Technical Authority personnel are organizationally separate from the program/project. The Center SMA Director is responsible for establishing and maintaining institutional SMA policies and practices consistent with Agency policies and standards. The Center SMA Director also is responsible for ensuring that the program/project complies with both the program/project and Center SMA requirements. The HMTA establishes and is responsible for ensuring Agency health and medical policy, procedural requirements, and technical standards are addressed in program/project management. The HMTA provides independent oversight of all health, medical, and space crew/personnel performance matters that either arise in association with the execution of NASA programs and projects or are embedded in NASA programs and projects as specified in NPR 7120.11, NASA Health and Medical Technical Authority (HMTA) Implementation.

5.4.4 Each Center Director is responsible for the technical integrity of R&T activities and investigations that are assigned or awarded to that Center. The Center Director is the overarching Center Technical Authority responsible for Center engineering verification/validation processes, specifications, rules, practices, and other activities necessary to ensure the technical integrity of R&T programs and projects accomplished by the Center. The Center Engineering TA approves waivers and changes in Center technical requirements. The Center Director may delegate Center engineering technical authority implementation responsibility to an individual in the Center’s engineering leadership. Due to the nature of R&T, the technical authority requirements for R&T programs and projects are not as specific as for programs and projects managed under NPR 7120.5. The Center Director appoints personnel, as needed, to fill the Engineering TA roles at the Center. These roles are not predefined in this document because they may vary greatly depending on the nature and level of effort of the R&T programs and projects.

5.4.5 Depending on the scope of R&T work being performed at the Center, the TA may establish periodic reviews. However, the scope of these reviews should reflect the R&T work being accomplished at the Center. Whenever possible, the TA independent reviews should be coordinated with planned program/project reviews for efficiency. There may be cases when it is advantageous for several Centers to work together to come up with a means of maintaining technical integrity for efforts that are not Center specific. Therefore, it is possible for several Centers to work together to conduct one TA independent review of a piece of work.

5.4.6 The day-to-day involvement of the TA in program/project activities should ensure that any significant views from the TA will be available to the program/project in a timely manner and should be handled during the normal program/project processes. The ultimate responsibility for program/project success in conformance with governing requirements remains the responsibility of the program/project manager.

5.4.7 Infrequent circumstances may arise when the Technical Authority or the program/project manager may disagree on a proposed programmatic or technical action and judge that the issue rises to a level of significance that the next-higher level of management should be involved. In such circumstances: If considered to be in the best interest of the program/project, the program/project manager has the authority to proceed at risk in parallel with the pursuit of a resolution. Resolution should occur prior to implementation, whenever possible. However, the program/project manager may proceed at risk in parallel with pursuit of resolution if deemed in the best interest of the program/project. In such circumstances, the next-higher level of Programmatic and Technical Authority would be informed of the decision to proceed at risk. Resolution should be attempted at successively higher levels of Programmatic Authority and Technical Authority until resolved. Final appeals are made to the Office of the Administrator. Additional details establishing the technical authority process are contained in NPR 7120.5 and NASA/SP-20220009501.

5.5 Research Practices

5.5.1 All R&T projects, activities, and investigations are conducted in accordance with established research practices and NASA’s standards to ensure the quality, integrity, and acceptability in the community of the research results. Such standards and related requirements regarding NASA sponsored research are provided in NPR 1080.1 and NPD 1920.1, Scientific Integrity.

5.5.2 Each Center Director is responsible for ensuring the conduct of R&T activities and investigations that are assigned or awarded to that Center follows appropriate practices. The Center Director is responsible for Center scientific processes, specifications, rules, practices, and other activities, necessary to ensure the quality of results from R&T programs and projects. The Center Director may delegate Center responsibility to an individual in the Center’s leadership.

5.6 Principles Related to Tailoring Requirements

5.6.1 It is NASA policy that all prescribed requirements (requirements levied on a lower organizational level by a higher organizational level) are complied with unless relief is formally granted. Policy also recognizes that each program or project has unique aspects that need to be accommodated to achieve mission success in an efficient and economical manner. Tailoring is the process used to adjust or seek relief from a prescribed requirement to meet the needs of a specific program or project. Tailoring is both an expected and accepted part of establishing proper requirements. For requests for relief from requirements that are the responsibility of the Chief, SMA, see NPR 8705.6, Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) Audits, Reviews, and Assessments for the SMA-specific process.

5.6.2 The evaluation and disposition of requests for tailoring comply with the following: The request for requirement relief is referred to as a “deviation” or “waiver” depending on the timing of the request. Deviations apply before a requirement is put under configuration control at the level the requirement will be implemented, and waivers apply after. The organization submitting the tailoring request informs the next higher level of involved management in a timely manner of the tailoring request. The organization at the level that established the requirement dispositions the request for tailoring of that requirement unless this authority has been formally delegated elsewhere. Such delegations will maintain the separation of Programmatic and Institutional Authorities required by governance. The dispositioning organization consults with any other organizations that were involved in the establishment of the specific requirement and obtains the concurrence of those organizations having a substantive interest. Approved tailoring requests become part of the retrievable program or project records.

5.6.3 A prescribed requirement that is not relevant and/or not capable of being applied to a specific program, project, system, or component can be approved to be designated Non-Applicable by the individual who has been delegated oversight authority by the organization that established the requirement. This approval can be granted at the level where the requirement was specified for implementation (e.g., the project-level ETA could approve a non-applicable designation for an engineering requirement). The request and approval documentation becomes part of the retrievable program or project records. No other formal deviation or waiver process is required.

5.6.4 The person requesting a permanent change to a prescribed requirement in an Agency or Center document that is applicable to all programs and projects shall submit a “change request” to the office responsible for the requirement policy document unless formally delegated elsewhere.

5.6.5 Tailoring NPR 7120.8 Requirements The requirements in this NPR follow the philosophy of minimizing down to the essential requirements for R&T projects and maximizing the flexibility of R&T projects to meet those requirements. Larger R&T project managers or the MDAA or program manager might find it advantageous to pull in more structured requirements from NPR 7120.5, for example, for some of the specific life-cycle reviews like the CDR. The addition of requirements from other directives and the addition of program/project technical requirements does not require a waiver. Additionally, how a program or project complies with a requirement is not specified and depends on the size and complexity of the program or project and does not require a waiver. For example, this NPR requires the project manager develop a Project Plan that contains, as a minimum:

a. A description of the project and its objectives.

b. How the project will be managed.

c. How the project will be monitored and controlled, including reviews.

d. The expected cost and schedule.

e. The deliverables. As long as the Project Plan contains these elements, the format that it takes can be scaled as appropriate for the size and complexity of the project. The format could follow the outline in Appendix G, a memorandum, or another format. The plan could be a hard copy document, an electronic file, power point file, e-mail, or other electronic media, as long as the DA agrees to it, the appropriate signatories sign off on it, and the plan is stored in official retrievable project documentation.

5.6.6 Waiver Approval Authority The person requesting a waiver to a requirement in this directive shall document the request, obtain the required signature from the CPMO on behalf of the NASA AA or the organization responsible for the requirement, and submit a copy to the CPMO. The request will include the rationale, a risk evaluation, and reference to all material that provides the justification supporting acceptance. Appendix L provides an example acceptable template for a waiver request. Waivers to requirements in this directive are adjudicated by the officials shown in Table 5-1.

Table 5-1 Waiver Approval for R&T Programs and Projects

Project Manager Program Manager Center Director* MDAA NASA Chief Engineer NASA AA** Approval Authority for Waivers with Dissent
Programs R C R C A NASA AA
Projects R R C R C A NASA AA

R = Recommends; C = Concurs; A = Approves
* Unless otherwise delegated.
**CPMO on behalf of the NASA AA

5.7 Use of Metric System

The International System of Units (commonly known as the Système Internationale (SI) or metric system of measurement) is to be used for all new projects and programs, especially in cooperative efforts with international partners. 15 U.S.C. §205b and Executive Order 12770 provide relief from this preferential use of SI when the use is impractical or is likely to cause significant inefficiencies, such as a substantial increase in cost or unacceptable delays in schedule. Each program and project will perform and document an assessment to determine an approach that maximizes the use of SI. This assessment will document an integration strategy if both SI and U.S. customary units are used in a project or program. The assessment is to be completed and documented in the Program Plan or Project Plan.

| TOC | ChangeLog | Preface | Chapter1 | Chapter2 | Chapter3 | Chapter4 | Chapter5 | AppendixA | AppendixB | AppendixC | AppendixD | AppendixE | AppendixF | AppendixG | AppendixH | AppendixI | AppendixJ | AppendixK | AppendixL | AppendixM | ALL |
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