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2004 Speeches
Mike Mott

Mike Mott

Vice President & General Manager, NASA Systems

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems

"Opening Remarks to the Aldridge Commission"

President's Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy

Dayton, Ohio

March 04, 2004

The following is a prepared statement presented by Mike Mott, vice president and general manager of Boeing NASA Systems to the President's Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy (Moon, Mars and Beyond) on March 4, 2004 in Dayton, Ohio. Actual remarks may differ from written text.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. It is my pleasure to join with my colleagues from Lockheed Martin and to testify before you today. As I understand it, we had a specific homework assignment from the commission: to discuss the challenge of managing a large program that will have a forty-year roadmap and that will maximize a long-term multiple system, and will receive intense public and technical scrutiny. And you would like me to do this me to do this in 5-7 minutes. That may be the greater challenge.

Think about it, when President Kennedy committed our Nation to go to the Moon, John Glenn had not orbited the Earth - yet within a decade our world was changed forever. The President's announcement had a profound affect on us, not just as Americans, but also on our industry, our collective enterprise, our avocation of advancing aeronautics and space technology. This vision will offer direction and purpose. It will rejuvenate our sense of challenge and of National pride. This vision has the capacity to inspire people, to cause them to find the very best they have to offer. More importantly, this new National vision offers an affordable and sustainable path to demonstrate our commitment to the exploration of space. However, the vision is only the start of this journey--the first viewgraph, if you will. With NASA's leadership industry is up to the challenge of completing this journey.

But the issue you have asked me to address here today is not so much a matter of vision, but a matter of execution, and that is the challenge of both leadership and management. The complexity of developing, integrating and operating the dozens, if not hundreds of robotic, human, and telerobotic systems it will take to launch, assemble, transfer, land, and build permanent habitats on the Moon and Mars far exceeds anything we have ever attempted to do in space. But we have been building vehicles in space for a fairly long time. We know how to do that part of it. We have been integrating very large, complex, adaptable, long-term systems. So we know how to do that as well.

Can we function as large integrated and diverse teams? Can we cooperate on an international scale? Look at the International Space Station. When completed, it will have taken 88 missions to space to assemble and outfit, launching 100 major components on NASA's Space Shuttle and Russian launch vehicles. This is a truly global project involving the scientific and technological resources of 16 countries and the efforts of more than 100,000 people throughout the world in the largest peacetime joint effort in history. Think about it - on the first assembly mission two pieces of flight hardware that had never been closer together than 10,000 miles on Earth are brought together while traveling at 5 miles a second, docked and assembled 250 miles in orbit, the light switch is turned on and it works. This is a real credit to the leadership of NASA, the international partners and the contractors working on this historic program. There is no question in my mind that we can do this.

A little over ten years ago, we assembled a group of very senior space program managers to discuss lessons learned from managing very large programs. General Tom Stafford who led that effort presented these legacies to the Commission earlier. I wanted to call your attention to just four of these lessons learned as a precursor to some guidelines I will share with you.

First: Have clean lines of management authority and responsibility for all elements of the program - ensure that one organization or prime contractor is clearly in charge: We learned this lesson the hard way on the International Space Station. I think we have roles and responsibilities sorted out on the International Space Station today, but this was not always the case, and I think that this led to both cost and schedule growth. The NASA Administrator is to be commended for putting in place the necessary management tools and discipline to get this program back on track.

Second: Establish realistic program milestones that provide clear entry and exit criteria for the decision process, and create useful capabilities at each step. I think you had it about right when you tasked us to think about 40 year programs. I personally think that we should be thinking in even longer terms, but the point is the same. We will have to have many, clear, performance-based requirements and milestones. And as soon as we know that we will not be able to meet the requirements, it is the design, not the requirement that must change. I know that Admiral Steidle has spoken out strongly on this point and I could not agree with him more. In the past we have had it exactly backwards, changing the requirements to meet the design. This approach has gotten us in trouble. An executable plan always starts with stable requirements ... but no one is smart enough to get them 100% right the first time, and in fact situations do change so there must be a mechanism to adjust. The mechanism just needs to be at a very high level and appropriately painful!

I also believe that we need to set milestones that will provide demonstrable success roughly every two years. The program must be able to show the American taxpayers that we are making progress toward our goals or it will lose the attention and support of the American public.

Third: Ensure that the Administration and the Congress clearly understand the technical and programmatic risks and realistic costs of the program. In a program that may last beyond 40 years, it is quite likely impossible to estimate the total lifecycle costs with any degree of reliability at the beginning. However, NASA charts show approximately $170B projected for exploration systems. Trust me, we can get to the Moon for a $170B. As we settle on an architecture, we can certainly estimate the cost of the near term projects over the next ten years with enough certainty to let the American taxpayers and their elected representatives make an informed decision.

We in industry, NASA, and even DoD have historically accepted overly optimistic cost and schedule numbers. DoD has recognized this problem and established the Cost Analysis Improvement Group (CAIG) to act as an independent cost assessment team. A recent very senior DoD acquisition executive relied on this group to provide reality checks to the estimates generated by the Program Managers or their Contractors, and then insisted the services or agencies fund programs to the CAIG level. This is an important step in the right direction. NASA should consider something similar to the CAIG.

Fourth: Mandate simple interfaces between elements. Here we have a principle that applies directly to what we now refer to as a System-of-Systems approach. We must work to create an open architecture that allows us to bring in new systems and technologies as they are developed. In an endeavor, which will last many decades, we cannot lock in to any single system or technology. This open architecture approach can only be achieved by focusing on clean interfaces and non-proprietary standards.

One of the most significant changes in the aerospace business over the lasts several decades has been in the complexity of the work being managed. We are engaging in programs with a level of complexity and technical interdependence that far exceeds anything we have done in the past. Programs like Missile Defense, Future Imagery Architecture, Future Combat Systems, and the International Space Station involve a level of systems interdependency and requirements for timeliness and precision that would have been unmanageable in past programs.

The decision on how the system integration will occur across the complex system-of-systems that will be necessary for the Exploration Enterprise must be made sooner rather than later. As Government and industry developed the lead systems integration (LSI) function, we learned that it is really more of a mindset, or mode of operation than a particular organizational structure. So let me address some of the keys to successful lead systems integration:

The first key is that the LSI must own the system architecture and have the tools for enforcing requirements. One of the early lessons in the International Space Station was that without contractual tools to enforce requirements, an LSI was ineffective. By a similar token, having some requirements reside in one NASA center while others are held in another is a recipe for disaster. Once requirements are set, the LSI must be ruthless about enforcement.

The second key is collaboration: The LSI must bring together the best of NASA and the National labs, DARPA, and other Government agencies; industry and academia, all working together in a badge less environment to do what is best for the Nation. The team must be able to draw from the best of industry, government and academia and integrate these technologies and systems seamlessly into a single system of systems.

The third concept of operation is independence: The LSI must maintain an "arm's length" independence from actual hardware production. While we almost certainly will have hardware producers represented in the LSI, the function of this particular team is on the architecture and system integration, not the hardware. This is sometimes a difficult balance to strike, but we have found that if you do the first right, the second will follow.

The fourth principle is development of system-of-systems engineering tools: The most important developments in the revolution in military affairs have occurred in modeling and simulation, and in other systems-of-systems engineering tools. We understand the interoperation of systems well before we begin the first piece of hardware development. But the modeling and simulation don't stop there. The LSI must continually remodel the architecture as new technologies and capabilities are made available.

The fifth principle is open architectures: Does anyone imagine that when humans land on Mars, or perhaps even Europa, they will rely on technologies we have in hand today? In order to ensure that new technologies can be used, the architecture must be open. We must use principles of spiral development to continually improve the capabilities of our systems. Interfaces should be clean and simple. Again, this is not a new idea in itself. Software and communications, which are always pacing technologies, must be open systems.

I have no doubt that the program managers we are training today will be up to the task of managing the incredible complexity and uncertainty of the endeavor this commission is evaluating.

There is a drawing at NASA from a third grader of a rocketship exploring the solar system and on it she had written the caption "We'll never know, unless we go." How does the saying go? "And the children will lead them."

America's focused--goal-driven initiatives have produced a spectacular record of successes, which have benefited all humanity. I know that we won't let down that third grader who, 50 years from now, will be reminiscing about the first landing on Mars, and the challenges that are yet to come.

It's all about making a difference for the future and our children's future.

Throughout our history America has been blessed with many things, and one thing that always seems to me is that we have had the right people at the right place at the right time. As I travel around the Country I am certainly proud to see that our future is in such very capable hands.

Thank you. I would be happy to respond to your questions.