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Improving Program Affordability Through The Application of Data Analytics

Parametrics Track



In the current budgetary environment, program affordability is a key concern. Improving program execution and minimizing schedule delays and cost growth are keys to improving program affordability. However, there is a lack of quantitative analysis of schedule risks, and a lack of understanding of the root causes for schedule delays and cost growth. Consequently, most of the common affordability improvement suggestions centered on relaxation of test and verification requirements, and streamlining of engineering processes may not address the true root causes. The effectiveness of these affordability improvement suggestions is uncertain.

Prior research results on statistical analysis of cost growth data by (Smart 2011, 2010) based upon a data set of development cost growth for 289 NASA and Department of Defense programs and projects suggested that cost growth data can best be described by “fat-tail” distribution, specifically, the Log Normal Probability Distribution. More recent research results by (Wang 2012) showed that similar “fat-tail” distribution behavior can also be observed in post Critical Design Review schedule performance data of individual programs.

In this paper, we will present our new research across multiple ACAT-1 programs showing that the “fat-tail” distribution behavior of schedule delays is applicable to hardware oriented programs, as well as software intensive programs. Further, our analysis shows that schedule delays do not behave like a “fat-tail” distribution at the early stage of a program. We will show that statistical analysis of program execution performance data at the “back-end” of a program life cycle can be further correlated with the statistics of program execution performance data from the “front-end” of a program life cycle to identify specific areas of improvement in the system engineering process that might significantly improve the program affordability.


Dr. David L. Wang
The Aerospace Corporation
Dr. David L. Wang has over 20 years of Engineering Management and Program Management experience. Prior to joining Aerospace, Dr. Wang worked as an Engineering Manager with increasing engineering and program management responsibilities for various programs at Northrop Grumman Corporation. Dr. Wang also worked at Cisco Systems in progressively more responsible positions in Engineering Management and Program Management. He was the program manager for multiple international joint development and offshore manufacturing partnerships between Cisco and Sony, Samsung, Matsushita, Dassault, and multiple Taiwanese and mainland Chinese companies.
Dr. Wang earned a baccalaureate with Honors in Engineering and Applied Sciences (E&AS) and a master’s in Electrical Engineering (EE) from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and a master’s and doctorate in EE&CS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Austin Lee
The Aerospace Corporation
Dr. Lee has been with the Aerospace Corporation since 2007.
His expertise includes design of satellite attitude control subsystem and Laser communication system. He has been actively involved in these areas through both design and review activities within the Aerospace Corporation and NASA. With his extensive experiences in many satellite systems, he is also involved in many Government satellite procurement programs through the Program Management Assistance Group (PMAG) of the Aerospace Corporation. His recent interest is in the improvements of the Government satellite procurement programs using cost and schedule risk analysis.