National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA cost estimating professionals seek continuous improvement

August 23, 2019

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Dr. Charles Verdon delivering the keynote address at the Third Annual Cost Estimating Community of Practice Symposium at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in August.
Dr. Charles Verdon delivering the keynote address at the Third Annual Cost Estimating Community of Practice Symposium at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in August.
Dr. Charles Verdon delivering the keynote address at the 2019 CECOP.
“Accurate and transparent cost estimates are playing an increasingly important role in our planning and implementation processes,” Dr. Verdon said.

Earlier this month, nearly 200 cost-estimating professionals from NNSA’s labs, plants, and sites; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and private industry came together for technical presentations and training at the Third Annual Cost Estimating Community of Practice (CECOP) Symposium at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

The planning, programming, budgeting, and evaluation of major modernization programs for our nuclear weapons stockpile involves complex, dynamic, and interdependent processes across the Nuclear Security Enterprise. This means estimating costs for these activities requires an integrated, holistic approach. 

“Accurate and transparent cost estimates are playing an increasingly important role in our planning and implementation processes,” said Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Dr. Charles Verdon, who served as the keynote speaker for CECOP 2019. “I cannot overstate the importance of cost estimating in what we are doing. There are a lot of stakeholders who ask about cost first.”

A slide from Kathy Lane’s presentation, “How to Build a Schedule.”
A slide from Kathy Lane’s presentation, “How to Build a Schedule.”

There were many sessions over the two-day event—both classified and unclassified—designed to share best practices and provide helpful perspectives on topics including case studies, analysis of alternatives, capital acquisition planning, and risk analysis. Kathy Lane, on detail to NNSA from Sandia National Labs, gave a talk about how to build a schedule for a major project. Lane provided insight on how best to use different software packages to accomplish this task and explained important factors to keep in mind such as required activities, necessary constraints, and types of logic. 

“The response from our participants this year has been resoundingly positive,” Lane said. “Everyone greatly appreciated hearing directly from Dr. Verdon how much importance he places on the work that they do.”

CECOP is dedicated to developing and implementing tools, analytical processes, policies, procedures, guidance, and training to significantly improve cost-estimating activities within NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs. Additional presentation topics included the capital acquisition planning process, risk-benefit analysis, risk management, and data collection.