Major Acquisitions:

Significant Changes Underway in DOD's Earned Value Management Process

NSIAD-97-108: Published: May 5, 1997. Publicly Released: May 5, 1997.

Additional Materials:


Jack L. Brock, Jr
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GAO provided information on the Department of Defense's (DOD) Earned Value Management process, focusing on the: (1) problems facing the cost/schedule control system (CS2) process; (2) progress DOD has made with reforms; and (3) challenges DOD faces in fostering and managing potentially significant changes.

GAO noted that: (1) the core concept of the CS2 process, earned value, is recognized as a sound way to measure progress on major acquisition programs; (2) over the years, however, the process has evolved to where the needs of some of its key users are being satisfied, while others are not; (3) because the data contained in the CS2 reports are typically up to 2 months old, the reports do not function as an early warning system needed by program managers; (4) moreover, the process has not fully integrated cost, schedule, and technical data as intended; (5) DOD has acknowledged the problems with CS2 for a decade, but reforms have proceeded slowly mainly because responsibility for the process has resided with the oversight organizations that have been its architects; (6) DOD attempted to effect change in 1989 by transferring top-level responsibility for the system from the comptroller staff to the acquisition staff; (7) despite this transfer, little progress was made because execution of CS2 at the field level remained within the comptroller community; (8) nonetheless, DOD has embarked on several reforms that could dramatically change the CS2 process; (9) recently, DOD accepted industry's earned value management criteria as a replacement for the government's long-standing CS2 criteria; (10) DOD has also transferred responsibility and control over the process from the services to the Defense Contract Management Command (DCMC), which currently provides the on-site interface between the government program office and the contractor; (11) another reform underway involves giving DOD program managers latitude to tailor their contract data to the specific needs of their program, such as the categories and the level of detail; (12) these recent steps to reform the CS2 process have potent implications; (13) for example, adopting the industry criteria could result in less burdensome and more useful contractor management information systems, but could also lessen the government's ability to oversee defense programs; (14) in light of both the day-to-day demands of managing the process on individual contracts and implementing recent reforms, DCMC faces a significant challenge as it takes over stewardship of the process; (15) service officials are concerned about how quickly it can meet these demands, given its decline in staffing over the last several years; and (16) ultimately, DCMC will have to ensure that the process meets the basic needs of all its key users, program managers, contractors, and oversight personnel.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation, stating that the Performance Management Advisory Council (PMAC) will make clear in the EVMS implementing guidance the relationships among the organizations and their associated data requirements. DOD has included language about balancing the needs of all users in both its Earned Value Management Implementation Guide (EVMIG) and the PMAC charter. DOD has taken other steps to advance EVMS concepts: it has published an abbreviated EVMS Guidebook, an EVMS Risk Matrix tool, and an EVMS Maturity Model to assist users in applying sound EVMS principles. DCMA, the executive agent, has also established a center of excellence for EVMS and developed a web site as a resource for policy updates, user questions, and ongoing activities in the community.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should promulgate the basic needs of the organizations that depend on earned value information in some manner, such as in the implementing guidance for the Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Through its Executive Steering Group, DOD has put the mechanism in place to satisfy this recommendation for top-level guidance. In addition, the Performance Management Advisory Council (PMAC)is responsible for managing day-to-day EVMS issues, including balancing the data needs of various users.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should take steps to ensure that the "wants" of one organization do not encroach upon the basic needs of other organizations that depend on earned value information as the management of the CS2 process transitions to DCMC and as DCMC makes decisions on reforms in the future.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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