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How Long Will This Project Really Take? GAO Issues Draft Schedule Assessment Guide

Second Volume in Series to Help Manage Government Projects

Washington, D.C. (May 30, 2012) – The U.S. Government Accountability Office today issued a draft manual to help federal, state, and local government agencies develop more reliable schedule assessments for government projects of all sizes. The draft Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Developing and Managing Capital Program Schedules (GAO-12-120G), available on-line, applies to civilian and defense projects managed by either government entities or private contractors.


Drawing on scheduling concepts introduced in GAO’s March 2009 Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide (GAO-09-3SP), the draft Schedule Assessment Guide presents 10 best practices for developing and maintaining a reliable, high-quality schedule. As a companion to the Cost Estimating Guide, the GAO Schedule Assessment Guide is designed to assist not only GAO auditors in evaluating the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of government programs but also all government agencies in developing, managing, and evaluating capital programs. The draft will be available for comment for a full year to allow GAO to collect a wide array of feedback before completing the final guide. Comments on the draft can be sent to


“Using this guide, government agencies will be better able to avoid common problems, such as schedule overruns, missed deadlines, and performance shortfalls,” said Karen Richey, Assistant Director of the Applied Research and Methods team at GAO. “The new guide is intended to help agencies produce comprehensive, well-constructed, credible, and controlled schedules. The federal scheduling community has long needed better tools for preparing schedules and schedule risk analyses. GAO’s draft manual, with its formal approach to scheduling based on best practices, will go a long way toward filling that need.”


Developed with help from industry experts as well as federal officials, the 221-page draft Schedule Assessment Guide lays out a multi-step process for developing high-quality, trustworthy schedules; explains how to manage schedules once they have been developed; and presents 19 case studies drawn from GAO’s published audits that illustrate typical pitfalls and successes in scheduling and schedule risk analysis. The guide stresses sound scheduling practices, such as setting realistic program baselines and managing risk. GAO plans to use the Schedule Assessment Guide to assess the accuracy and realism of agencies’ schedules in its future audits.

For questions contact Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs, at 202-512-4800.



The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. GAO also works to improve the performance of the federal government and ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

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