An engineering duty officer since 1997, Admiral Small had a number of tours in acquisition, starting at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division and then the Missile Defense Agency. Moving to the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS), Small was the Electronic Warfare Assistant and then the Major Program Manager for Above Water Sensors (PEO IWS 2), overseeing the development of improvements for the Navy in electronic warfare and radar.
Following his time at IWS 2, RDML Small served as the Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. He has been serving as the Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) since November 2016.
RDML Small provided a unique perspective on challenges managing a portfolio of programs and how cost estimating has helped enable his decision-making process. Discussion included how credible cost estimates could or have helped in prioritizing programs and/or capabilities, what he hopes for or expects when being briefed on cost, and what he sees as major challenges for the Service and/or Department in the future that cost analysts should prepare for.
He continually stressed the concept of “the great power of competition”, referring to the United States’ continuous situational awareness of the increasing threat capabilities of other nations and how our responses to these capabilities necessitates timely innovative solutions to stay ahead of the competition and “win the fight tonight”.
Getting the Whole Picture
It was clear that RDML Small values quality cost estimators. He highlighted the fact that he relies on our community to give him an unbiased perspective. He acknowledged that the news delivered by cost estimators is often not rosy, but it is this news that affords him and his program managers a greater understanding of challenges and risks, and in turn enables more informed decision making.
“RDML Small wanted all cost estimators to “be dominant in our knowledge of what things cost”. I feel this mean we should become the experts related to the cost of a system, more so than even the industry partners. When we are evaluating a proposal, often times the cost estimator will know the entire make-up of the contractors offer and how it was estimated better than any member of the industry manufacturer. This is critical to reaching a deal that is fair, reasonable and beneficial to the government.”
The RDML leans on cost estimators to help the Navy achieve fair and reasonable deals with industry during contract negotiation/source selection. In fact, he stated emphatically “we’re never going to be rushed into a bad deal” and explained that cost estimators play a critical role in thoughtfully evaluating the reasonableness of industry’s proposed costs, particularly in the case of sole source awards. In other words, our community’s work enables the Navy to formulate sound negotiating positions and thereby achieve leverage with industry.
During and after his talk, RDML Small fielded a broad range of questions with insightful and often thought-provoking responses, including a challenge to our community to apply a cost take-out mentality that enables affordability. Food, drinks and lively networking followed.
Join Us Next Time!
Join us at our next NextGen Cost Estimating and Analysis Meetup coming soon! We plan to continue the trend of hosting stimulating discussions facilitated by thought leaders in our industry. Stay tuned in to our LinkedIn page for more information.