Origin of the Integrated Baseline Review



By Wayne F. Abba

Michigan, USA

In the early 1990s, the Department of Defense experienced a series of project management disasters. The Navy A-12 Avenger II stealth bomber and Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport and B-2 Spirit stealth bomber had huge cost overruns, all of which were foreseeable using standard EVM analysis. Yet all too often, my office, located in the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense, was the first to identify (or acknowledge) the performance problems despite the data having been analyzed by the contractors, their project management customers, and the military department oversight organizations.

As the two senior people responsible for Defense policy and implementation of contract cost and schedule performance management, my boss (the late Gary Christle) and I spoke often about the issue. The data reported to us every three months on the largest Defense contracts came from the contractors’ EVM systems, which had been reviewed in detail by the military departments in accordance with our policy. I was the lead analyst and by this time had participated in a number of EVMS reviews with each Service and analyzed data from dozens of contracts on major projects.

The EVMS reviews provided assurance that the data were good. Why then was our office often the first to sound an alarm? We identified two main reasons:

  1. The EVM specialists in the military departments were too far removed from the projects and had no stake in the contract outcomes. Their concern was compliance with checklists, and their own individual preferences. As years passed, they became more and more prescriptive rather than following the intent of the EVM guidelines. The EVMS reviewers set impossibly high standards of perfection – in one extreme case, the Navy EVM organization refused to review a shipyard until the contractor could produce an EVM system description that was acceptable to a Washington bureaucrat who had not visited the yard. It took four years. The resulting description was a generic document, produced by a consultant, that mirrored the policy but didn’t reflect how the yard actually managed ship construction.
  1. As a result, Defense project managers had no sense of ownership for the processes used to manage their contracts.

Christle and I decided to use the Pentagon’s program approval process to attack the problem. We had been moved from the DoD Comptroller organization to Acquisition, where we found support from our senior leaders. When Donald Yockey was appointed the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition in 1991, he quickly discovered that our office was a reliable source of information on contract performance.


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How to cite this article: Abba, W. (2024).  Origin of the Integrated Baseline Review, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/pmwj139-Mar2024-Abba-Origin-of-Integrated-Baseline-Review.pdf

About the Author

Wayne F. Abba

Michigan, USA


Wayne Abba is an independent consultant in program and project management. For 17 years before retiring in 1999, he was the senior program analyst for contract performance management in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition & Technology). He was a volunteer expert advisor to the US Government Accountability Office team that published the “Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Developing and Managing Capital Program Costs,” and “Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules.” He is (twice) Past President, College of Performance Management.

Semi-retired but still active, Wayne is currently a member of a Program Management Improvement Team advising the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Safety, Infrastructure and Operations. He also serves on the board of the Graduate School Japan, a nonprofit organization that provides training and consulting services to Japan government ministries, including planning for management of the Fukushima nuclear plant decommissioning. His voluntary work with the National Science Foundation includes membership on several project review panels ranging from conceptual through final design reviews.

Wayne can be contacted at wayneabba@aol.com