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Analyzing Cost Growth in Government Acquisitions

Lessons Learned Track

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This paper studies a sampling of historical programs that have experienced varying levels of cost growth. The chief purpose is to identify (common) causes; thereby offering an opportunity to make recommendations that can mitigate those causes.

This paper examines a broad range of U.S. Government procurements, spanning:
• Technology domains that cover satellites, ships, land systems, command and control systems, etc.
• Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Energy government segments
• An epoch that starts as early as 1921 through the present
The analysis begins with collecting publicly available documentation regarding the contract performance on a plethora of programs. The analysis principally involves gathering “causal” data; parsing and collating the causes into a manageable set of codified bins; and examining the frequency of occurrence.

In the course of data collection/analysis, an assessment will be made with respect to the effectiveness of various acquisition reforms that have been instituted throughout the chronology under study. These recommendations as well as those that have been published within the ‘causal’ documentation will also be collated and parsed.

The paper will conclude with a unified set of findings and recommendations.


Richard G. Cline
Having graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1980, Richard “Rick” Cline became a helicopter pilot in the United States Marine Corps. Upon leaving the USMC in 1987, Rick joined the Boeing Company where he continues to work and mentor young Affordability analysts. In his 27 years, Rick has worked on launch vehicles, space, maritime, aircraft, and ground-based systems. In the last five years, his work has been directed towards optimizing the cost-effectiveness of large system-of-systems type problems.

Toan B. Nguyen
Graduated from California Polytechnic University and University of Southern California with engineering (Industrial and Manufacturing) and science (Operations Research) degrees, Toan Nguyen has been working in the industry for more than twelve years as a parametrician. Of late, he has been focusing on system effectiveness (cost-performance optimization) studies.

David W. Ross
David graduated from the University of San Francisco with a B.S. in Physics and the University of California, Irvine with an M.S. in Astrophysics. He started at the Boeing Company eight years ago as an embedded software engineer and has recently moved in to cost-effectiveness and Affordability.