Project Management and Program Office

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Federal Radar

On the morning of November 14, Sharon Taylor, Space Warning Network (SPAWN) Program Manager, was getting ready for a private meeting with Paul Shaifer, President of the Federal Rader Corporation (FedRad). Mr. Shaifer had scheduled the meeting to discuss the problems that had plagued the company’s important SPAWN Program during its first year and a half. These problems, which included unauthorized design changes and Taylor’s inability to control the program’s cost, schedule, and technical performance, had contributed to a cost overrun and schedule delay, estimated at 30% and four months respectively, and a general loss of customer confidence.

The Federal Radar Corporation

Since its founding, FedRad had been pre-eminent in the radar field. FedRad’s scientists and engineers were prominent figures in the development of radar and, over the years, the name “FedRad” was synonymous with technical excellence in building radar equipment. Financial success had rewarded the company’s technical skills in the production of surface, navigational, and fire control radar equipment for the military services and large prime contractors. In recent years, however, sales, employment, and profits had declined appreciably as heavy competition reduced FedRad’s contract capture rate.

During the years, FedRad’s largest customer by a substantial margin was the Navy. Air Force business was growing rapidly, however, and FedRad thought it might eventually equal the Navy’s volume. The SPAWN Program accounted for most of the company’s Air Force business and was the largest single program in-house.

The Space Warning Network (SPAWN)

FedRad won the SPAWN prime contract 18 months ago. SPAWN was an advanced warning system to detect, tract, and report weapons fired from space. The SPAWN radar subsystem required several advances over earlier radar systems because of unique scanning and tracking problems. The other major subsystems were similar to those of existing manned aircraft and missile warning systems, but the performance and reliability requirements for the system as a whole were considerably more stringent because successful reaction to a space attack requires an extremely fast and accurate response.

Although FedRad had always made significant contribution to radar’s state-of-the-art, most of the radar equipment it had developed prior to the SPAWN Program was based on the same fundamental principles. In addition, the major portion of its contracts had required only the redesign and improvement of existing components to meet new specifications. Consequently, the company was able to follow a management approach characterized by functional groups (e.g., engineering, marketing, purchasing), performing traditional tasks. Although program coordination existed, there was very little centralized control over a total program.

FedRad first departed from its traditional approach to organization when the company won the SPAWN contract. To win the competition, FedRad had descried a SPAWN Program Office in its management proposal. There were two reasons for this departure from tradition: first, the recent loss of a key Navy contract, primarily because of an unsatisfactory management proposal and second, the Air Force’s current attitude toward contractors’ management organizations and procedures.

Establishing Program Management for the SPAWN Proposal

Upon winning the SPAWN contract, Paul Shaifer announced the appointment of Colonel Brian Emery (USAF, Retired), formally Assistant Deputy Commander for Systems and Logistics, Air Force Systems Command, to the newly created position of Special Assistant to the President for Management. At the same time, Sharon Taylor, formerly Ordnance Fabrication Shop Supervisor, was appointed to be the SPAWN Program Manager. Victor Towell became the new Vice President, Programs. He was 48 and had been with FedRad for 25 years. He also assisted the Marketing Department in its efforts to identify...
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