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WBS Development: Rules, Aberrations and MIL-STD-881C Implementation Challenges

Earned Value Management Track



Issued on October 3, 2011, Military Standard 881C (MIL-STD-881C) provides the framework for developing Work Breakdown Structures (WBSs) for use throughout the acquisition process, as well as a standard set of structures that fit eleven commodity types. These WBSs are used for management, system engineering, and cost estimation by a variety of stakeholders. Though comprehensive, the MIL-STD does not address some of the complex details encountered when developing a weapon system WBS, and there are many special cases and exceptions that could not be captured in the document. This study describes the challenges associated with developing WBSs in a real-world environment, using examples from the Defense Cost and Resource Center (DCARC) Cost and Software Data Report (CSDR) Planning process as a guide. We first review rules and guidelines for developing WBSs, including those laid out in the new standard. We then describe why these rules need to be tailored or broken on a routine basis, to account for increasingly common situations such as multiple variants, Automated Information System (AIS) increments, CLIN reporting, and sustainment reporting. Finally, we address some of the difficulties in implementing the new MIL-STD 881C, including balancing the requirement to include program-unique flexibility and to provide increased standardization.


M. Michael Metcalf
Technomics, Inc., supporting OSD/CAPE
Mr. Metcalf has spent the past two years at Technomics Inc as a Cost Analyst, developing standard Work Breakdown Structures (WBSs) and data reporting systems for the Department of Energy, creating innovative views of Earned Value Management (EVM) data for use by Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (OSD CAPE) analysts, and supporting software cost estimates for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Cost and Economics (ODASA-CE). Prior to this, Mr. Metcalf was a Research Associate at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), where he performed aircraft and space cost research, data analysis for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and studies on DoD IT systems. For five years, he has supported the Defense Cost and Resource Center (DCARC) in developing policy and instructions, tools, and CSDR plans. He also helped shape the EVM Central Repository and coordinated its pilot project and full implementation for all Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs). Mr. Metcalf received a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Business and Engineering with a focus in Business Economics and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering, both from Lehigh University. He is a Certified Cost Estimator Analyst (CCEA).