Rescue hero: Eric Brusoe

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Rescue heroes

In less than a year, Eric Brusoe turned around a governmentwide Defense Department program that was stalled and in danger of being canceled.

The Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System-Industrial Hygiene collects and analyzes air, water and soil samples that can indicate environmental hazards to which warfighters have been exposed. Using a Web-based interface, doctors and nurses can get information about the impact of various exposures and appropriate medical treatments.

Originally scheduled to launch in June 2003, the $6 million system was delayed because no one could agree on minimum system requirements. Brusoe said diverse groups of medical professionals -- for example, on Navy ships and at Army depots -- would use the system. "Getting them all on the same sheet of music" was not easy, he added. Without that consensus, the system was going nowhere.

In November 2004, DOD transferred oversight of the system to the Resources Information Technology Program Office (RITPO). Brusoe was tapped to manage the program, and he quickly formed a working group to gain consensus on the system's core capability.

The team completed a document detailing baseline requirements and received funding approval, then DOD awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to develop the system. By holding frequent meetings with government and company officials and tightly monitoring critical tasks, Brusoe kept the project on schedule.

Anyone who wanted to propose additional system requirements had to submit their requests for placement on a list of features and functions that would be considered after the initial project was completed.

Brusoe said team members' project management skills helped keep activities on track. Most of the program office's employees have Project Management Professional certification. Administrated by the Project Management Institute, such certification demonstrates a level of knowledge about how projects should be run, he said.

"We use [certification] as a cornerstone of everything we do in RITPO," Brusoe said. "Our bosses insist on it."

Brusoe's story has a happy ending. In August, he received authority to launch the health readiness system.

O'Hara is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

Advice from the pros

Name: Eric Brusoe.

Title: Principal deputy program manager for system acquisition, development and deployment.

Organization: The Defense Department's Resources Information Technology Program Office.

Project: Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System-Industrial Hygiene.

On managing people: "If you don't manage communications, you'll never succeed," Brusoe said. Everyone involved in his program, including those who will use the system and the developers who are creating it, must have a clear idea of what the program is all about, he said.

On managing processes: "Don't try to develop the project in one fell swoop," Brusoe said. That's a big temptation for novice program managers. Instead, focus on incremental builds, he said, and manage doable tasks.

On managing technology: "Don't look too far into the future," Brusoe said. "See what's available in the marketplace now and what is suitable." Invest in stable technology with a good security foundation, he added.

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