Original Post Date: Monday, March 9, 2009

The US Department of Defense (DOD) continues to be plagued with cost overruns on major weapons systems.  Last month Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich) and John McCain (R-Ariz) introduced the 2009 Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act intended to put measures in place to force the DOD to address the issues that cause overruns and schedule slippage.   Among other things,  this legislation would create the position of Director of Independent cost assessment for Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) and require the DOD to perform trade-offs between cost, schedule and performance early in the program lifecycle. Read more about this legislation.

The DOD's experience with cost overruns and schedule slippage is certainly not unique to them.  The size and complexity of the problems that they are trying to solve, along with the fact that their projects are funded with US tax dollars, makes their contract difficulties more dramatic and more public.  Everyone who builds large systems knows that the bigger their system the more risk there is that things will change between the time the project is first estimated and the time it is delivered.  And most changes that occur within a project involve adding requirements rather than removing them.  This is why cost, schedule and performance tradeoffs are so important – early and often in every project. 

And while there is no silver bullet that will solve the problems that the DOD and many other systems developers have with projects failing to meet goals – there are tools and methodologies that will facilitate success with cost, schedule and performance tradeoffs.  TruePlanning for Products from PRICE Systems provides a framework in which systems developers can translate their own past performance to provide forward looking analyses that facilitate trade-offs between cost, performance and schedule. TruePlanning provides a trade space to help project managers create realistic expectations for the cost and schedule of complex systems.