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Proposals, From a Cost Perspective. Adapted from Claude Freaner Office of Earth Science NASA Headquarters.

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proposals from a cost perspective

Proposals, From a Cost Perspective

Adapted from

Claude Freaner

Office of Earth Science

NASA Headquarters

why worry about cost
NASA needs to be able to make independent assessments of the Cost Risk and the Cost Realism of each project to lessen the chance of mission failure. Some consequences of inadequate assessments are:


De-scope of Instrumentation

Loss of spacecraft/instrument

Loss of resolution

Reduced operational period

The earlier the independent assessment is made, the more taxpayer dollars may be saved.

Proposal Preparation

Why Worry About Cost?
how are proposals selected
1. Headquarters approves a draft NRA/AO/RFP that defines what we are looking for.

2. PIs write proposals and submit them.

3. Reviewers read the proposals, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and risks

• Science

• Technical

• Management

• Cost

• Education

• Other Opportunities (SDB, Commercialization, Public Outreach)

4. Selection Official makes a decision based on the above areas plus funding availability and political necessity.

Proposal Preparation

How are Proposals Selected?
first step for a prospective pi

Read the Technical, Management, Cost, Education & Public Outreach, and Proposal Submittal sections with as much attention to detail as you place on the Science Section

The biggest risk to the PI at this stage is that the proposal will not be selected. Some suggestions to prevent rejection:

Provide ALL requested data

Look for”show”, “list”, “provide”, “explain”, “describe”, etc.

Make liberal use of a highlighter

Create a compliance matrix, include it with the proposal

Get a good Project Manager and Systems Engineer right away - they’re experts in what needs to be done

Pay attention to proposal submittal instructions

Proposal Preparation

First Step for a Prospective PI:
example from iip nra

Proposal Preparation

Example (from IIP NRA):

IIP Proposals:

16 of 64 did not provide SOW

9 of 64 did not provide milestone charts

5 of 64 did not provide full-cost accounting for government work

36 of 64 did not provide a monthly cost plan


Proposal Preparation

Examples (Continued)


From ESSP AO-3:

Indicate funding for PI and each Co-I in a small table, similar to this, along with the individual’s responsibility in the proposed project.


Proposal Preparation

Why All This Detail?

Risk Reduction. Cost details tell the reviewer you understand the problem, you’ve covered all the costs, and your costs are reasonable.

what is a basis of estimate
Basis Of Estimate: How you determined what the cost will be.

Catalog price

Vendor quote

Vendor ROM (or NTE) quote

Detailed breakdown of time and materials to build it

Similar to one built on another program last year (analogy)

“Engineering judgement” (SWAG)

Proposal Preparation

What is a “Basis Of Estimate”?

Every cost in the proposal should have a Basis of Estimate!


Proposal Preparation


Let the computer do the work

proposal writing made easier
1. Begin with a skeleton. Create a MS Word document with sections marked per NRA/AO/RFP directions. If the proposal has a page count limitation, give each section the number of blank pages allowed. Put in sub-section titles as required.

2. Identify required information for each sub-section. Cut and paste the required info from the proposal submittal instructions or your compliance matrix.

3. Identify which proposal subsections will require outside help - get the help started. Get an experienced and knowledgeable Project Manager and Systems Engineer very early in the proposal process.

4. Begin writing each subsection, paying close attention to the compliance matrix, and updating it as you go.

5. Arrange for an in-house Red Team review of your proposal to take place a couple of weeks prior to the submittal date.

Proposal Preparation

Proposal Writing Made Easier
proposal writing made easier cont
Pressed for time?

If the NRA/AO/RFP mentions student involvement, think about college students helping with the proposal: An undergraduate management student can create the compliance matrix for you, an MBA candidate with technical BS can create and maintain your cost data, your risk assessment section, and your management section as you and other team members develop them.

Find an English major or Journalism graduate student or civil servant to proofread your proposal drafts.

Find an art or graphic design student to help you design the layout and artwork (or contact Center graphics office)

Proposal Preparation

Proposal Writing Made Easier (Cont.)
set up a war room
One page on the wall for each page allowed in the NRA/AO/RFP instructions

Blank at first

Section headings

Rough Drafts

Final Copy

Ensures everyone knows

the “big picture”

Proposal Preparation

Set Up A “War Room”
what does a red team review do
The Red Team pretends to be a Source Selection Board.

Composed of Scientist, Technologist, Management, Cost, Education/Public Outreach personnel

Quickly reads the NRA/AO/RFP

Validates your compliance matrix to the NRA/AO/RFP

Validates your proposal to the compliance matrix

The Red Team offers suggestions to improve all parts of the proposal

Brutally frank, but constructive, criticism

Red Team Review must be completed in just a couple of days max!

Proposal Preparation

What Does a Red Team Review Do?

When the Red Team is finished, re-write your proposal as appropriate, and complete any remaining unfinished sub-sections

where do i find my red team
Start with the Center Systems Management Office. If they don’t have one, demand they provide one.

Contact Co-Workers - offer to be on a Red Team for them in the future.

Proposal Preparation

Where do I find my Red Team?
definition risk management 7120 5a
"An Organized, Systematic Decision-Making Process That Efficiently Identifies Risks, Assesses or Analyzes Risks, and Effectively Reduces Or Eliminates Risks to Achieving the Program Goals.”

Step 1: Admit there are risks…

Step 2:

Identify what can go wrong

Analyze and Assess consequences

Mitigate the impacts; develop plan to prevent

Track progress

Update Continuously

Proposal Preparation

Definition: Risk Management (7120.5A)

what can be done to lower risk
• Provide requested data. Information can reduce uncertainty.

• Plan adequate margins and contingencies

• Anticipate adversity

• Plan (and use) Peer Reviews

Proposal Preparation

What Can Be Done To Lower Risk?


how is cost risk reduced
Adequate Information About The Estimate

Provide Requested Data

Write Down Assumptions

Provide Basis of Estimate

Show Calculations

Be Consistent and Traceable

Adequate Funding Reserves

Bottoms-Up Allocations, Based On Risk

Project Phase Specific

Adequate Schedule Reserves

Along Critical Path

Funded (“marching army”)

Tracking And Control (Earned Value…)

Proposal Preparation

How Is Cost Risk Reduced?






Points of Contact

Area POC email

Research Martha Maiden

Applications Ed Sheffner

Education Ming-Ying Wei

Technology Karen Moe

SEEDS Kathy Fontaine Kathleen.S.Fontaine.1@

Other questions: Ed Sheffner 202-358-0239