A Personal Experience with DoD “Cost Control”

Don Chapin

The US government basically does very little hands-on cost accounting…since virtually everything is done by contract, commercial/civilian program managers are central to cost tracking and control. When I was responsible for a $3.2M contract to McDonnell-Douglass of Long Beach CA, it was only natural to rely upon their cost tracking system in the time-honored tradition of “management,” which relied heavily upon their Program Manager’s inputs and expertise. By spot-checking his figures vs. what had been accomplished, I had enough confidence in his work to rely upon him.

Then the DoD came up with an “advanced” cost-tracking model with a lot of math equations to “increase confidence” in project management (AND release news of such sophistication to Congress and the media) so that those of us with contracts over a certain amount were required to attend a day-long lecture/seminar on applying the new approach labeled, as I remember it, CSSR. At the end of the day-long class/seminar, I had one question for the ‘instructor’ from the DoD: “The traditional methods we have been following relied heavily upon the contractor’s Program Manager to provide the initial figures for our analysis… so where do we get the initial figures to start with for the new CSSR?” Answer: “The contractor’s Program Manager… I didn’t expect to have a ‘ringer’ in this class.” Both of us were left silently contemplating the waste of time (and the money invested in this advance cost-tracking model) while he was thinking of the other bases he was supposed to be briefing…



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