5.3.1 Independent Technical Review

An independent program assessment (IPA) should be conducted to provide input into a go/no go process leading into each succeeding program phase. Ideally, the IPA will have total, unrestricted access to all support data and personnel of the government and contractors, and will be responsible only to the milestone decision authority. Experience has shown that program managers rarely recognize if their program has run into sufficient trouble that it should be terminated or substantially revised. Instead, they argue for a new baseline of cost and schedule in order to proceed with a clean, “green” program. It is also noted that large independent reviews toward the end of a program or just before a launch do not tend to add value or uncover problems early enough to make a difference.

In addition to IPAs at the beginning of each major program phase, the demonstrated best practice is for technically competent government representatives to be imbedded into the contractor’s development and mission support processes. These government representatives attend ERBs and other technical meetings and make their feelings known in real time. This allows the program to respond positively without causing a downstream disruption. The approach was used effectively by NASA on the Centaur program and again later with Atlas as a commercial program. Co-located Aerospace Corporation engineers have been shown to be equally effective representing the Air Force on EELV.

5.3.2 Contractor Reporting Requirements

Even with imbedded government technical personnel, Air Force management needs insight into program progress and requires periodic reviews. During development and initial Y-vehicle operations, these formal program reviews typically occur quarterly. A standardized format, showing schedule, risk reduction, and cost status, plus identification of major accomplishments and problems, is normally used. The imbedded government technical advisors should also participate in these reviews and give their opinion to both the contractor and the Air Force on progress and problems.

During ongoing stable launch operations, the use of formal status and other reviews should be significantly reduced. To meet RBS rapid ground processing goals, a cultural change will be required. This will necessarily involve reevaluation of and significant revisions to the many launch readiness and range safety reviews currently required for expendable launch operations.

5.3.3 Change Approval Approach

Different processes are suggested for approval of Requirements Changes and of Continuous Improvement Changes, as explained next.

5.3.3.1 Requirements Changes

The normal ECP approach should be used for Air Force-imposed or contractor-proposed changes to requirements. The formal ECP process serves as a brake on requirements creep and on the contractor’s proclivity to spend all the available dollars on a cost-plus development. ECPs are funded by government dollars that result from requirement changes or other changes that may help the contractor’s bottom line but provide little cost savings to the government.

5.3.3.2 Continuous Improvement Changes

ECPs are used on most government programs for all types of changes, which is ineffective for CI changes. In addition to identifying the technical need and cost of implementing the change, the ECP also must identify the expected benefit of making the change (reliability, performance improvement, operational improvement) and the expected cost savings. As discussed in Section 5.2.2, CI cost savings often involve quality issues associated with the “hidden factory,” which are impossible to quantify. The ECP seeks additional budget from the government



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