GAO’s Cost Assessment Guide
Management & Lessons Learned Track
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is responsible for, among other things, assisting Congress in its oversight of the federal government, including agencies’ stewardship of public funds. Legislators, government officials, and the public want to know whether government programs are achieving their goals and what their costs are. The capability to generate reliable program cost estimates is a critical function necessary to effectively use public funds and to support the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) capital programming process. Without it, agencies are at risk of experiencing cost overruns, missed deadlines, and performance shortfalls—all of which are recurring problems that our program assessments too often reveal.
Our Cost Assessment Guide was developed in order to establish a consistent methodology based on best practices to be used across the federal government for the development and management of its program cost estimates. In particular, it provides a detailed link between cost estimating and earned value management (EVM)—which is especially critical for setting realistic program baselines and managing risk. By design, managers and auditors alike should find this Guide to be a useful manual as they assess (1) the credibility of a program’s cost estimate for budget and decision-making purposes, and (2) the program’s status using EVM.
In this presentation, we will discuss the content of the Guide and highlight case studies from previous audits which illustrate the best practices being discussed. In addition, we will provide examples of recent GAO audits where the Guide was piloted as an audit tool.
Karen Richey is a senior cost analyst in GAO’s Center for Technology and Engineering, where she is involved in performing cost analyses and technology audits on a wide range of systems. In the past few years, Karen has been responsible for championing the use of earned value management as an auditing tool at GAO. Certified by the National Defense University as a Chief Information Officer (CIO), Karen is also Level-III certified in the field of cost estimating and financial management. She has 17 years experience in the fields of cost estimating and technology auditing.
Before joining the GAO, Karen was a cost analyst for the Department of the Navy where she performed earned value management and developed independent cost estimates for major weapon and automated information systems. Karen holds a degree in Statistics and Mathematics from the University of South Carolina. In the last year, she has developed and delivered a one day training class for auditors on EVM as well as co-authoring articles in The INTOSAI IT Journal and the Navy Comptroller Magazine.
Jennifer Echard has been a senior cost analyst in GAO’s Center for Technology and Engineering since 2002. At GAO she is involved in performing cost analyses and technology audits on a variety of programs spanning many different agencies. Before joining the GAO, Jennifer was a cost analyst for the Department of the Navy where she developed independent cost estimates for major weapon and automated information systems. Jennifer holds a degree in Mathematics from the University of Maryland. She has co-authored articles in The INTOSAI IT Journal and the Navy Comptroller Magazine. Jennifer is also Level-III certified in the field of cost estimating and financial management. She has 18 years experience in the fields of cost estimating and technology auditing.
Carol Cha is a Senior Information Technology Specialist at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). During her tenure, she has led reviews in EVM and acquisition management at the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, and Treasury, among others. She also teaches beginning and advanced EVM training courses within GAO. Currently, she is working on the development of GAO’s Cost Assessment Guide—which is intended to be an auditor’s guide to program and system life-cycle cost estimation. She holds a B.S. in Business Information Technology from Virginia Tech.