On April 10, 2014, Lt Col. Charles Shannon Begeman lectured us on NPOESS Lessons Evaluation. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) is a satellite system used to monitor global environmental conditions, and collect and disseminate data on weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and near-space environment. Lt Col. Charles Shannon Begeman is the EELV Chief Engineer at SMC, where he leads 29 civil & military, 36 FFRDC, and 61 SE&I teams in systems engineering, and risk management for $12 Billion SS launch program. Lt Col. Begeman also manages the $100 Million annual FFRDC, and the $220 Million SE&I contracts, to name a few.
Lt Col. Charles Shannon Begeman, a highly experienced engineer, spoke on number of issues that hampered the progressive development in the NPOESS Program. He began by speaking about the escalation of budget due to the unrealistic cost estimation, and the failure of the government and the prime contractors to establish a clear supplier performance appraisal. Lt Col. Begeman also spoke on the lack of synergy among the various stakeholders to the program, which led to tension and escalation of cost, schedule and performance. Then, there were the flaws in understanding the future capability of trade space in maintaining cost and schedules, and the ill-conceived interagency risk reduction mission. He also spoke on the recruitment of inexperienced personnel to work in complex work environments, and the ill-informed managerial decisions that diverted from the core, mission requirements. NPOESS failed in these areas because, they lacked the impetus and stakeholder support necessary for Convergence, the management was overly optimistic that led to lack of discipline and focus, and the failure of the government team in managing their contractors. The team members were too inexperienced to engage contractors on such a project. After assessing where the problems were in the NPOESS Program, Lt Col. Begeman then spoke on how these issues could have been resolved. Lt Col. Begeman said that, had the management followed realistic, independent cost estimation by applying industry and Government standard practices from the start, they would not have had such cost escalations. They should have been more authoritative, quantitative, and multifaceted in their assessment. The selected team didn’t understand their responsibilities or work ethics; they should have established and enforced rigorous expectations for incentives for the desired contractors. Right from the start of the NPOESS Program, there were no alliance between agencies with divergent mission priorities, and to address this issue, they should have pursued, or developed, naturally aligned interagency partnerships that shared mission priorities and requirements. The biggest mistake was the lack of sufficient number of talented, sufficiently experienced staff appropriate to handle the complexities and the scope of the acquisition. The Program Managers must enforce strict discipline, and focus on their priorities from the start
Listening to Lt Col. Begeman’s lecture, I feel that I too can prioritize my tasks before taking a project. Tasks such as following a realistic cost estimation, enforcing certain incentive schemes based on stringent expectations from selected contractors, and ensuring that naturally aligned interagency partnerships are in place, will help me succeed in projects. In addition to the above, I will ensure that I select a team that is talented and sufficiently experienced, to handle the complexities and the scope of the acquisition.
Lt Col. Begeman gave an insight into the mismanagement of the NPOESS Program. The PPT presentation was effective, and the points that were highlighted in them made it easy for us to understand what needs to be done in case such contingencies occur. This lecture was very powerful, and showed us how it could practice it in our industry.