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Evaluation of Scheduling in Accordance with the U.S. Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) Standard

Recently, in a job posting by Siemens for a Scheduler position for a project in Singapore, the requirement was proficiency in the DCMA standard. Until then, my most significant resources for scheduling program evaluation were PMI and DOD (U.S. Department of Defense) standards. So, I embarked on researching the DCMA standard and familiarizing myself with its relevant items for project scheduling evaluation, with the intention of making this information available to those interested.

An interesting aspect in this context is the ” Check Schedule ” tool in Oracle EPPM, which evaluates project schedules based on the DCMA standard. I’ll delve into this in detail later.
I’m also providing an Excel file for download that contains code to evaluate schedules prepared in P6 (with the XER extension) against the 14 DCMA standard criteria.
The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) is part of the U.S. Department of Defense and directly deals with defense contractors.

It is responsible for overseeing the time, cost, and performance of the U.S. Department of Defense, federal services, and government services, including the launch of multi-billion-dollar aerospace and weapon systems and the oversight of more than 320,000 contracts involving over 9,500 civilians, 500 military personnel, and 13,500 contractors.

This agency prepares quality assurance reports and audits and monitors contract programs.

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Additionally, it oversees federal procurement programs.

In the pursuit of improving planning methods, DCMA has released a 14-item protocol for evaluating Critical Path Method (CPM) schedules, which is used for evaluating their own schedules. Professional project control experts in all industries need to be aware of this protocol, which has the potential to be used in various sectors. After contract award, DCMA monitors contractor performance and management systems to ensure that costs, product performance, and scheduling are in compliance with contract terms and conditions.

In March 2005, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology (USDAT&L) authorized the use of an Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) for contracts exceeding $20 million. This authorization also directed DCMA to establish procedures and guidelines for monitoring and evaluating these programs. In response to this request, DCMA prepared and published its own 14-item evaluation framework for scheduling quality control. Online training for this protocol is exclusively available through DCMA.

The evaluation of the 14-item DCMA standard has been presented at various reputable conferences and is on the path to becoming an industry standard. The latest revision of this standard was published on November 9, 2009.

Evaluation of the 14-Point DCMA Standard The evaluation of the 14-point DCMA standard encompasses the following items:

1. DCMA Standard Logic:

· Missing Logic: The number of activities lacking either predecessors or successors should not exceed 5% of the total activities.
· Dangling Activities: Activities with only SS or FF relationships (not both) create gaps in scheduling calculations and risk assessments. These activities should be identified and addressed.

2. DCMA Standard Leads:

· No negative lags are permitted.
· The number of activities with leads should be zero. Leads are generally discouraged due to their potential to disrupt accurate scheduling.

3. DCMA Standard Lags:

· The total number of activities with lag should not exceed 5% of the total activities. Lag usage can make critical path analysis difficult. Instead of lag, consider defining activities with a duration.

4. Relationship Types:

· At least 90% of the total predecessor relationships should be Finish to Start (FS). The use of Start to Finish (SF) relationships is prohibited. SF relationships do not transfer delays from the predecessor to the successor.
· The use of SS and FF relationships is also restricted. If used, these relationships must be explicitly defined to maintain network logic.

5. Hard Constraints:

· The number of activities with hard constraints should not exceed 5%. In project management software like Microsoft Project (MSP) and Primavera P6.

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There are two categories of constraints:

These are the first five of the 14 points outlined by the DCMA. The evaluation process involves examining various aspects of the project schedule to ensure it adheres to these criteria. The remaining points cover additional aspects of schedule quality and compliance with best practices, all of which are essential for successful project management and compliance with DCMA standards.

Constraints or Hard Constraints The number of activities with hard constraints should not exceed 5%. In software like MSP (Microsoft Project) and P6 (Primavera P6), there are two types of constraints: hard constraints and soft constraints.

In P6, hard constraints include the following:

· Start on
· Finish on
· Mandatory Start
· Mandatory Finish
· Start On or Before + Start On or After
· Finish On or Before + Finish On or After

In MSP, hard constraints consist of the following:

· Must Start On
· Must Finish On
· Start-No-Later-Than (SNLT)
· Finish-No-Later-Than (FNLT)

Easy constraints include the following:

· As-Soon-As-Possible (ASAP)
· Start-No-Earlier-Than (SNET)
· Finish-No-Earlier-Than (FNET)

According to the DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) standards, hard constraints are conditions that force the scheduling of activities contrary to the defined logical relationships between them and the network logic.

6. High Float :

The number of activities with a total float exceeding 44 working days should not exceed 5%. High float, which is defined as having a float greater than 44 working days, can occur due to disruptions in scheduling, flaws in defining relationships, or the use of the SS (Start-to-Start) relationship type. The figure of 44 working days is equivalent to the number of working days in two calendar months.

7- Negative Float (or Float Less Than Zero):

· No activity should have negative float.
· Negative float occurs due to the use of constraints in scheduling.
· Negative float implies that late dates precede early dates in the schedule.

8- High Duration :

· This item checks for activities with very long durations.
· Activities with durations exceeding 44 working days should not exceed 5% of the total activities.
· Long durations may result from insufficient task decomposition and inadequate planning.

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9- Invalid Dates :

This evaluation includes two cases:

· Forecast Dates must not be earlier than the Data Date, as these dates pertain to the future and should not precede the Data Date.
· Actual Start and Actual Finish dates must not be later than the Data Date.

The software, such as P6, reports activities with these issues in its Schedule Log under Errors-Warning.

10- DCMA Standard Resources :

· All activities with a minimum duration of one day should have assigned resources.
· Some schedules may not use resource allocation properly, so this evaluation item calculates the ratio of activities lacking resources to the total number of activities.
· DCMA emphasizes the importance of allocating resources for deriving costs and managing projects effectively.

These DCMA evaluation criteria help ensure the quality and adherence to standards in project scheduling. If you have more specific questions or need further information on any of these items, feel free to ask.

11- DCMA Standard Missed Tasks :

· This evaluation checks for tasks where the actual finish date is after the planned baseline finish date.
· No more than 5% of tasks should fall into this category.

This item assesses project performance, aiming to ensure that the majority of tasks are completed as planned. If more than 5% of tasks are not meeting their scheduled deadlines, it may signal the need for a new baseline or improved project performance.

12- Critical Path Test:

· This test, known as a “What-If” analysis, identifies the current critical path task.
· It assesses whether an extension of 600 days on the remaining duration of the critical path task would result in a proportional extension of the project’s completion date.
· Care should be taken when different calendars are used or constraints are applied, as these can affect the results.
· The test should be conducted on a copy of the schedule rather than the original project schedule.

13- Critical Path Length Index (CPLI):

· This index measures the realism of the project’s completion time.
· It should be greater than 95%.
· It is calculated as the ratio of the length of the critical path plus total float to the length of the critical path.
· This test assesses schedule realism, ensuring that there is enough flexibility in the schedule to accommodate potential delays.

14- Baseline Execution Index (BEI):

· This index should be greater than 95%.
· BEI calculates the ratio of completed activities to activities scheduled to be completed according to the baseline plan.
· It assesses the efficiency of the contractor’s performance, with a maximum value of 1.
· If the BEI is less than 95%, the baseline may need to be reviewed to understand the cause of the discrepancy.

These DCMA evaluation criteria help ensure that project schedules are realistic and that project performance aligns with the baseline plan. The use of these criteria helps maintain project quality and adherence to scheduling standards.

Author: Arash Beyazian Serkandi & Hamid Hoseinnasab

Eizat Alhayat Project management Services

Topic: DCMA ( Defense Contract Management Agency ) Standard