GAO Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules—Exposure Draft

GAO-12-120G Published: May 30, 2012. Publicly Released: May 30, 2012.
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The U.S. Government Accountability Office is responsible for, among other things, assisting the Congress in its oversight of the federal government, including agencies’ stewardship of public funds. To use public funds effectively, the government must meet the demands of today’s changing world by employing effective management practices and processes, including the measurement of government program performance. In addition, legislators, government officials, and the public want to know whether government programs are achieving their goals and what their costs are.

Toward these objectives, In March 2009, we published the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide as a consistent methodology based on best practices that can be used across the federal government to develop, manage, and evaluate capital program cost estimates. The methodology outlined in the Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide is a compilation of best practices that federal cost estimating organizations and industry use to develop and maintain reliable cost estimates throughout the life of an acquisition program.

This schedule guide is a companion to the Cost Guide. A consistent methodology for developing, managing, and evaluating capital program cost estimates includes the concept of scheduling the necessary work to a timeline, as discussed in the Cost Guide. Simply put, schedule variances are usually followed by cost variances. Because some program costs such as labor, supervision, rented equipment, and facilities cost more if the program takes longer, a reliable schedule can contribute to an understanding of the cost impact if the program does not finish on time. In addition, management tends to respond to schedule delays by adding more resources or authorizing overtime. Further, a schedule risk analysis allows for program management to account for the cost effects of schedule slippage when developing the life-cycle cost estimate. A cost estimate cannot be considered credible if it does not account for the cost effects of schedule slippage.

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