A Study to Determine Impacts on Cost and Readiness Of Variations in the Development and Release Cycle of the F/A-18 EF and EA-18G Software Configuration Set (SCS)
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This project was completed by Patuxent River EMBA Cohort Consulting Team, on behalf of PMA-265, and facilitated through the Naval Postgraduate School Executive MBA program. The three main objectives of the project were: (1) Determine impacts on cost and readiness of variations in the development and release cycle of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G System Configuration Set (SCS); (2) Provide the F/A-18 Program Office with a clearer picture of the current trends associated with varying the SCS release cycle; (3) Provide the program office with a means to evaluate cost and readiness impacts of the SCS release cycle. This project focused on four main areas of interest: (1) Identification of fixed and variable costs incurred in the development and fielding of the F/A-18 SCS for use in the identification of cost impacts due to variation in SCS release interval; (2) Programmatic and schedule impacts on external stakeholders due to variations in SCS release interval (3) F/A-18 Fleet training and readiness impacts due to variation in SCS release interval; (4) Determining SCS release plan that balances capability, schedule, costs and impacts to the war fighter to ensure delivery of the right readiness, at the right time, at the right cost. Based on the analysis of the SCS release interval, we determined that a one year interval was too short, 4 years was too long, and the optimal interval is somewhere between 2 and 3 years. Utilizing historical SCS cost and developmental timelines provided by the Advanced Weapons Lab, we determined that 88% of the cost associated with releasing an SCS were variable, and only 12% were fixed. Modeling this data and running cost models excursions at varying SCS release intervals, we determined that the greatest cost was associated with a 1 year SCS release interval and that costs decreased as the SCS release interval increased. Implementing a 4 year SCS release cycle results in savings of up to $63.5 million as compared to one year SCS release costs. Examining typical Aircrew, Squadron and Air Wing training plans, we determined that a 1 year SCS release interval resulted in decreased Aircrew Flight proficiency and increased training requirements. As the SCS release interval increased to 4 years, Aircrew, Squadron and Air Wing proficiency increased and training plans were optimized. SCS release intervals for a major SCS (delivers capability and implements software fixes) and minor SCS (implements software fixes only) were also examined to determine optimal combination that resulted in delivery of both new capability as well as fixes to software. A combination of a major SCS combined with a minor SCS release will result in software anomalies being fixed quicker while delivering equivalent capability to the fleet over the 8 year life of the F/A-18 Flight Plan. While most of the criteria we analyzed indicated longer SCS release intervals were optimal, there were some criteria that indicated short SCS release intervals were optimal. Analyzing current program capability roadmaps, from all stakeholders who implement capability on to the F/A-18 E/F, we determined that a 1 or 2 year SCS release interval best aligned with current program office capability road maps. As the SCS release interval increased to 4 years, program office capability road maps were misaligned with SCS releases, resulting in significant program cost and schedule impacts. Longer SCS release intervals will negatively impact the delivery of required capability to the fleet. The F/A-18 E/F is the lead platform for many new capabilities being released to the fleet. All capabilities implemented on the F/A-18 are tightly integrated with the SCS, and if F/A-18E/F SCS release interval is extended, the introduction of those capabilities will also be extended. Combining all the results from the different focus areas, we determined that a 36 month major / 18 month minor SCS release interval best balances capability, schedule, costs and external stakeholder impacts. However, due to limitations of the DOD acquisition process timeline, many program offices have developed acquisition plans based on existing SCS release timelines, and shifting them now could significantly impact those programs. As such, we performed additional analysis with SCS release interval impacts to current program capability roadmaps more heavily weighted, which indicated that a 24 month major / 12 month minor SCS release interval provided the best balance for all parameters (cost, schedule, performance and other program office roadmaps).
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