|National Science Foundation: Revised Policies on Developing Costs and Schedules Could Improve Estimates for Large Facilities|
The National Science Foundation's (NSF) procedures for overseeing large facilities construction projects met many best practices for cost estimating but not those for developing project schedules. Specifically, NSF's procedures fully or substantially met 7 of 12 best practices in GAO's cost estimating guide and partially or minimally met others (such as conducting a sensitivity analysis to understand which variables most affect the cost estimate). In addition, they minimally met or did not meet 6 of 10 best practices in GAO's schedule development guide (such as establishing the durations of all activities). Further, while NSF reviews recipients' construction cost and schedule estimates for large facilities, the agency's policies did not incorporate procedures on how NSF officials are to ensure that those estimates meet best practices. An agency's procedures support the creation of reliable cost and schedule estimates when they fully or substantially meet the best practices in GAO's cost and schedule guides. NSF officials said that the agency's approach was to reference rather than repeat best practices in GAO's cost guide, except where agency-specific clarifications were needed. Nevertheless, without policies on how to apply all relevant best practices specifically to NSF's large facilities projects, recipients may develop cost or schedule estimates that are not reliable.