Lessons learned from Capital Asset Projects

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David Trimble, director of natural resources and environment issues at the Government Accountability Office, discusses what GAO found after looking at a failed Energy Department program, and why proper management is important for huge projects.


The Department of Energy is reviewing what they’ve learned from the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication facility project, after they cancelled it last year. According to a post-mortem by the Government Accountability Office, the plutonium disposal project fell victim to management issues, which should have been caught earlier. David Trimble, director of natural resources and environment issues at GAO, says that many of the problems originated from inexperience.

 

“I think what our report really highlights is a lot of the key problems that we saw from 2007 to 2011… my analogy is like the lights on a dashboard in a car. They were blinking red but we didn’t have the staff trained… They didn’t have enough staff with the right skills for the [check engine lights,]” Around 2010, they beefed up the requirements. In 2011, they stood up a new organization called the Office of Acquisition and Project Management. They brought over a whole bunch of people from DoD with experience in project management… Doubled the staff overseeing it. All of those things allowed them to see how off the rails the project was.”