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Best Practices in Aerospace Cost Estimation: Observations from US Air Force and NASA

Management Track



Both the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) develop aerospace projects with cutting edge technology. This paper will provide an overview of cost estimation for the respective organizations based on the authors experience with NASA and Air Force projects. When developing aerospace projects applying cost estimation in a formal manner in organizational structure and personnel training can improve program estimates and risk management. This has been noted in previous studies such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s 1999 study to identify the system causes of flight software cost growth and the International Space Station (ISS) Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force, which was established by the NASA Administrator in July, 2001. The paper will examine the structure of cost estimation organizations in both areas including a brief history as background. For NASA the examination will trace the creation of the original NASA Cost Estimation Handbook and the establishment of cost estimation positions within the Office of Chief Financial Officer at the centers as well as program-specific offices. There will be an examination of the changes made by the International Space Station Program as a result of. An example will include the utility of cost estimation when applied to contract negotiations for engineering change proposals. This will be compared to the application of cost estimation on other NASA programs. For the Air Force the role of the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency (AFCAA) providing independent cost estimates for Air Force programs will be described. The Air Forces Product Centers are also home to a cost estimation capability for pre Milestone A studies. The methodology of estimates developed by the Aeronautical System Center (ASC) over the previous decade will be examined.


Robert Georgi
Booz Allen Hamilton
Robert Georgi has been employed with Booz Allen Hamilton as an Associate for over twelve years. He has performed cost and risk analysis on several programs and projects for NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and the US Air Force. He has received three NASA Group Achievement awards as a participant on project teams and also received numerous recognitions from the firm. He was previously the lead for the Booz Allen cost estimators contracted in support of the International Space Station Program from 2004 to 2007 before moving on to new assignments under NASA’s canceled Constellation Program. Since 2010 he has support the Air Force’s Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) with cost estimates for conceptual aerospace systems. He has presented previously at SCEA, NASA Cost Symposia, Space System Cost Analysis Group meetings and the Galorath Users Conference.

Benjamin Watson
Booz Allen Hamilton
Benjamin Watson is a Senior Consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton and currently serves as the Lead Avionics Cost Estimator in the Assessments, Cost Estimating, and Schedules (ACES) team for NASA’s International Space Station Program. During his 3 year tenure, Benjamin has received recognition from NASA and Booz Allen Hamilton for multiple cost estimates performed for the Obsolescence Driven Avionics Redesign (ODAR). He graduated Cum Laude from Washington University with a B.A. in Business Administration and is a current member of The Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis (SCEA) chapter based in Clear Lake/Houston, TX.
Prior to coming to Booz Allen Hamilton, he served as the Lead Business Analyst for Boeing’s AV-8B Harrier II conducting budget assessments for upgrades to the Night Attack Avionics and APG-65 radar.