NSF Approval Requirements

  1. Are there any situations where we are required to get government approval before we are allowed to purchase something?

  2. How long does it normally take to get NSF approval?

  3. Is NSF approval required for NOAO, NSO/DKIST, WIYN, SOAR or LSST purchases?

Are there any situations where we are required to get government approval before we are allowed to purchase something?  

Under certain circumstances, the National Science Foundation must either be notified of a pending purchase or approve a specific purchase. NSF approvals can take up to a month to obtain. During holiday periods and the last months of the fiscal year, this approval process can take longer. The circumstances that govern what action must be taken are detailed in the Cooperative Agreements between the NSF and AURA. In general, approval must be obtained for any of the following:

  • Contracts or purchase orders that exceed $250,000

  • Architectural or engineering services that exceed $250,000.

  • Construction, including renovations and alterations, exceeding $250,000.

  • Total purchases with a single vendor that exceeds $250,000 for the fiscal year.

  • Lease of aircraft that exceeds $250,000.

  • Purchases to foreign institutions for any dollar amount except purchases made on behalf of AURA facilities in Chile for materials to be used at those facilities, even if the materials are to be brought to Tucson for transshipment to Chile

In instances where a purchase is being made for an AURA facility in Chile or foreign partner of AURA, the purchase may be delayed if a U.S. government export license is required. Contact the AURA Export Control Officer to determine if an export license is necessary. It is imperative that the requisition form identify the article as being destined for an overseas site. Export licenses may take up to six months to obtain.

If you have any questions, contact Suzanne Baron Helming, AURA Procurement Manager, or Orion Wiest, AURA Export Control Officer.

How long does it normally take to get NSF approval?  

While the time required to get NSF approval for a purchase can vary, the general rule of thumb is 15 days. Approvals have been much quicker but the actual time can vary depending on NSF employees travel or vacation schedules. During the last month of the fiscal year, that time can increase significantly.

Is NSF approval required for WIYN or SOAR purchases?  

SOAR and WIYN are not government-supported organizations. While AURA is a part of the consortia, WIYN and SOAR are private corporations. As a result, NSF approval for purchases from those organizations is not required. However, if specific government funds are given to these organizations and earmarked for specific purchases, there may be a requirement for government approval or oversight on those specific purchases.