By Maj.Timothy J. Bracken, Project Management Office DOD BiometricsJuly 14, 2015
Acquisition professionals are tasked to manage their program's cost, schedule and performance. In many cases, managing performance can be the most challenging. This is because the program office not only manages the specifics that determine and define their capability's requirements, but also maintains a relationship with the organization that manages and "owns" the capability's requirement documents. That organization is the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Capability Manager (TCM). These requirement documents, the initial capabilities document (ICD), capability development document (CDD) and the capability production document (CPD) are what define the characteristics and performance parameters of a capability or materiel solution.
Despite the best of situations, many barriers exist when developing, fielding and sustaining a capability. Even in the early phases of capability development, a plethora of events occur that require cooperation and communication between acquisition professionals and capability managers. This coordination is necessary to shepherd a document through the wickets of the Joint Capabilities Integrated Development System (JCIDS) process for it to become a program of record (POR).
One challenge facing project and program management offices (PMOs) is the lack of resources needed to work these early stages because the Army will not resource many activities without an approved requirement. Arguably, however, a more challenging set of circumstances has been occurring in PMOs Armywide as program and project managers (PMs) transition their offices to meet the demands of shifting priorities and resources in a budget constrained environment. For several years, the Army has been adjusting to new and emerging strategic, operational and financial environments based on changes in national security and national defense strategies.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan created several operational challenges that required the Army to field Quick Reaction Capabilities (QRCs) in response to operational needs statements (ONS) and joint urgent operational need statements (JUONS). Resultantly, many Soldiers' lives were saved and capability gaps and associated risks were significantly mitigated. The goal of these solutions was to get sufficient capability to the war?fighter as quickly as possible. The logic was that the quicker the capability was delivered, the more lives would be saved and the more success our warfighters would meet on the battlefield.
The upside to this process was that, without question, lives were saved and most missions were successful. The downside to this process is manifold, however. First and foremost, the analytical rigor and documented processes that are generally used to develop, manufacture, test, deliver and sustain materiel solutions were often not used in response to ONS and JUONS. QRCs were quickly procured from industry and sent down-range with little regard to cost, integration, testing or sustainment.
These solutions were often fielded as pilot programs without acquisition management. QRCs were funded using contingency dollars that did not include sustainment money. Resultantly, many QRCs were either left in theater, destroyed or stored away for future use. Yet Army leadership has deemed some materiel solutions to be enduring capabilities and be managed in the respective PMO. These organizations are transitioning many of these QRCs to PORs in order to secure sustainment dollars not appropriated in contingency funding.
As a result, PMs are responsible for creating documents and processes that would be required for a validated and funded program to proceed through the acquisition process. These products and documents must be generated so senior leaders can assess the capability and resource sustainment dollars accordingly. What drives and directs this rigorous process, from start to finish, are the requirements documented by the TCMs. The Army must have a valid need for the capability. Requirements spell out this need and must be integrated into the acquisition process.
Many PMOs face challenges in managing their requirements because, over the past several years, business has been conducted with a fundamentally different perspective of what exactly defines a requirement. The word alone has different meanings for different people in the acquisition workforce. In the past, when responding to an ONS, a requirement meant getting a generally defined capability to the user. General and generic system characteristics such as size, electromagnetic hardening, ruggedness and weight were not a priority or a requirement when providing a solution to the end-user.
ONS and JUONS also do not have basis of issue plans (BOIPs) or a designated military occupational specialty, which are needed for a solution to transition to an enduring or institutional capability. This means that TCMs and PMs must closely coordinate to document the BOIP and ensure the capability is delivered to units accordingly. This process is time consuming and requires significant logistic planning and effort. Furthermore, as PMOs transition to PORs, they are responsible for managing TRADOC-?generated performance requirements, which are more defined with key performance parameters and key system attributes. With a capability already in the hands of the user, the transition from general to specific makes satisfying these requirements costly and difficult.
Another consequence of the ONS process is the increased risk of capability managers and document writers basing their requirement documents (in part, at least) on an existing materiel solution or capability. Much like the PM trying to catch up to the process to secure funding to sustain a capability, the TCM tries to tailor requirement documents to an existing materiel solution that once satisfied an ONS.
This technique and practice is fundamentally flawed as it puts the writer into a vacuum, isolated from the PM's input. The PM's input when documenting requirements is in fact necessary to ensure the end-product is achievable. Furthermore, stakeholders who do not understand acquisitions or the requirement validation process can sometimes have disruptive influences on the requirements documentation process. Similarly, if a materiel solution was developed under an Army functional proponent, roles and responsibilities must be realigned when the capability transitions to a POR. Any single one of these practices creates the risk of documenting requirements that are not feasible, affordable or sustainable. The resultant document thus becomes a wish list to improvements in an existing capability, not an attainable response to a validated capability requirement that is generally derived from a documented concept and capability gap. Requirements must be traceable from validated concept through materiel development.
Very early in professional development, Army leaders are taught how to clearly identify a problem as the first task in problem solving. Knowing the dynamics of a problem enhances a leader's ability to scope the issue, understand the risk, allocate resources, develop courses of action and execute. In providing capability to the warfighter, it is the role of leadership at the PM and TCM to identify any problems that prevent their organizations from working through requirement-related issues. It is imperative for leaders to chart the path to success from concept to end item. This is achieved through coordinated action between the TCM and the PM by developing, delivering and sustaining a capability to the end user. This involves not just giving the warfighter something, but giving the warfighter something that is defined and associated with the problems and barriers in their current or future operating environments.
Much like an operational organization, the command climate and command philosophy have significant effects on how the members of the PM and TCM interrelate. With that, leadership at both offices must communicate openly and nurture a productive and positive relationship with action officers and document writers.
The relationship between the two organizations cannot be exclusive to leadership because very often leaders rely heavily on the experience and advice of senior capability managers and assistant PMs. These individuals have often been in the management offices since the capability was conceived and have significant influence and knowledge. The first step in establishing this cross-organization relationship is face-to-face interaction, which is imperative in any interpersonal encounter. Video teleconferences (VTC) are worthy, but a temporary duty trip to the TCM or PMO can pay huge dividends and avoid confusion, miscommunication, wasted labor and time. Simply put, leaders need to work together and "troop the line" between TCMs, PMs and stakeholders to ensure the war?fighter is getting the right equipment that is operationally sustainable and on time.
Whether a program is just kicking off, bending metal, in final tests or in sustainment, the importance of effective written and verbal communication cannot be underscored enough. Effective communication is one of the most important characteristics of any relationship. The development of requirements is a complex process in which concepts, technology, industry capacity and cost are extensively analyzed and documented. This time-consuming method creates a train of thought exclusive and unique to many capability managers.
Documenting Army "needs" is no small or easy task. It takes training. There is very little room for ambiguity when describing and documenting materiel solution attributes and characteristics. This particular way of thinking and communicating creates a lexicon within the capability management community that is often a barrier for counterparts in the PMO. Leaders must identify issues like this and take measures to mitigate their effects. Online training, VTC working lunches and other knowledge-sharing exercises can reduce the effects of cultural differences between the TCM and PMO.
Many PMOs and TCMs are going through the transition from QRC to POR. This change may be tumultuous and it will require Army professionals to adjust how they conduct business, interact and communicate with others and fulfill their role in support of the user. Ultimately, it is our job to care about the Soldiers' problems because they do not have time to worry about ours. Effective communication leads to getting capability to the warfighter, which is everyone's responsibility, because we never want to send our Soldiers into a fair fight.