Opinion

United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont essential

An editorial from The Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.

That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

NASA’s Office of Inspector General recently conducted an audit, from March 2013 through June 2014, to find out if the IV&V Program, located in the I-79 Technology Park, is using its funding appropriately. The report was released July 16.

“In our judgment, continuing this arrangement does not make fiscal sense for NASA, particularly when the Agency has more projects needing IV&V services than the current budget can accommodate,” the audit says.

As Jim Estep, president and CEO of the High Technology Foundation, which is the owner and developer of the I-79 Technology Park, pointed out, federal anchor agencies like NASA are vital to the technology sector in North Central West Virginia. The region must be united in protecting and growing those anchors as well as recruiting additional ones.

The NASA facility in Fairmont has been in place for more than two decades.

The construction of the NASA IV&V Facility was finished in 1993 at 100 University Drive, becoming the first tenant in the I-79 Technology Park.

The program uses a systems engineering approach to examine the software-development activities performed on safety and mission-critical software. The staff strives to ensure that software does what it’s intended to do, doesn’t do what it’s not supposed to do, and reacts correctly under adverse conditions.

The West Virginia University Research Corp. owns the IV&V Facility, and NASA pays for the operations and maintenance of the building.

The IV&V Facility housed 47 employees as of May 2014. The program has also had 144 contractors occupying two floors of the 5000 NASA Blvd. building, which is located adjacent to the IV&V Facility in the I-79 Technology Park, since July 2010.

The audit states that in fiscal year 2014, NASA had only enough money to support 13 of the 17 projects that were pinpointed as needing IV&V services. Other methods had to be used to check for software-related risks in the four projects that were left.

The report says that NASA’s operations and maintenance expenses associated with the IV&V Facility are taking away from the money necessary to provide IV&V services. The costs to lease 5000 NASA Blvd. are not nearly as much.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce costs considerably with NASA remaining in Fairmont…

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