Sudden Management Change at IV&V

Keith's 23 Dec note: IV&V had an unexpected visit from NASA's Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance Officer Bryan O'Connor today. He relieved Butch Caffall immediately of his duties as Facility Director of NASA IV&V and re-assigned him to NASA HQ "to work some technical issues for NASA starting early in January" according to an internal memo. Greg Blaney is acting IV&V Program Manager and IV&V Facility Director. IV&V employees had been expecting something to happen but this action was more abrupt and sudden than had been expected.

According to a NASA IV&V engineer: "The immediate re-assignment of the NASA IV&V director represents the end of modeling of NASA projects as part of our IV&V analysis. We have endured four years of spending IV&V funds on, what has been from the onset, an R&D effort to create a new method of doing IV&V using an independently built system reference model (UML based) of a space vehicle design based on Project artifacts. Its been costly in dollars and in performance. This R&D has taken countless man-hours away from our directive to find issues/problems with S/C FSW development."

"Critics of NASA IV&V would argue that we have never been effective or productive to justify the $35M annual budget. The argument I make is that the intent of IV&V is not as a lead effort to debug and assure mission success but rather as a final step in assuring mission success. We receive documents not in draft but primarily first and later revisions after peer review, V&V and/or I&T have analyzed artifacts. This is the ideal circumstance. We do receive, in fact, drafts and documents lacking project V&V and under such circumstances we do find more issues.

But the bottom line is that we cannot be expected to find numerous high severity issues or many issues overall. On this basis, the NASA IV&V funding level is well spent. NASA IV&V has delivered high severity issues to many projects that have saved development time and/or prevented serious events from unfolding during a mission's operation. Additionally, IV&V has functioned also as a watchdog and has kept Project developers, V&V and I&T more on their toes. This latter point is a hard to measure return on investment but it is significant. One other question that arises is whether, IV&V needs to reside off-site, as presently, and remote from all Projects. It is not necessary to be remotely situated to maintain independence of the V&V.

However, I strongly disagree that NASA IV&V should be disbanded, removed from WV and distributed to NASA centers. The present IV&V facility has acquired an excellent group of analysts who, if given a proper directive, method and also cooperation from the Projects they support, will deliver the analysis and issues that cost-effectively raises the mission assurance of every project they review. Our existence is the result of the efforts of our Senator and Congressman to bring technology jobs to West Virginia. The nation's capital metropolitan area, FL, TX, CA, AL, MS, OH have benefited greatly from the presence of NASA Centers.

NASA IV&V remains a critical core group in the Technology Park developing in Fairmont and it is a very small price to pay to assist the West Virginia economy. Given the proper support from HQ and from the Projects we assist, the existing IV&V personnel in Fairmont can function effectively and fulfill the directive and fill the needs that have were found lacking after review of the Challenger and Columbia disasters and the string of Mars mission losses in the 1990s. As with the question of continued funding of major NASA Centers that have been on the chopping block over the years, politics is a major factor. The whole NASA budget is only ~1.4% of the Federal Budget.

NASA IV&V is 2/10ths of 1% of the NASA budget - a small sum expended on added assurance. Added expenditures and over-runs due to poor project management and design errors amounts to on the order of 100 times more than the cost of the IV&V budget. Our divulges involving modeling do not represent a catastrophic event or loss of mission. We argue that our mission be righted and our funding maintained. The engineers in Fairmont very eager to make needed changes."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 28, 2009 2:07 PM.

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