NASA Told To Fly Coach

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You wouldn't think all those Ph.D.s at NASA would need a study by the Government Accountability Office to tell them it's cheaper to fly coach than to operate their own fleet of aircraft, but nothing is so convincing as hard numbers -- in this case, $20 million worth of numbers. That's how much NASA could have saved, the GAO said, if its staff had traveled by airline in 2003 and 2004, instead of using its own aircraft and charter services. Granted, those services can save time, are more flexible for staff scheduling and "provide other less tangible and quantifiable benefits," the GAO admits. But the GAO doubts those benefits justify an added $10 million a year in taxpayer money, not to mention an additional $77 million that NASA is planning to spend to upgrade and expand its fleet. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin responded to the report last week. "We at NASA have accepted the Government Accountability Office's findings and have embraced new guidelines and procedures for the use of our airplanes that have been set by the Office of Management and Budget. Going forward, all airplane use will be within those guidelines," he said.