Rescue hero: Harold Bell

Related Links

Rescue heroes

When program manager Harold Bell came to the Federal Aviation Administration's Satellite Navigation Program five years ago, Capitol Hill leaders were about to cancel the project that had lured him to the agency.

The $4.2 billion Global Positioning System-based Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) was supposed to generate precise lateral and vertical coordinates to guide aircraft landing at airports in the continental United States and Alaska. Twenty-five new ground stations would remove errors from horizontal GPS data. The new system would provide highly accurate altitude data via satellite broadcast. That information would be especially helpful to pilots flying in bad weather.

But Congress targeted WAAS for cancellation in 2000 because it was more than two years behind schedule. Termination would have affected the safety of more than 200,000 general aviation pilots and regional airline pilots.

Under Bell's direction, the FAA has restored confidence in WAAS. Congress granted full funding and pledged an additional $5 million for the procurement of a new geostationary satellite for the system. WAAS went live in July 2003, right on time.

How did he do it? The key was small bites, said Bell, former program manager of GPS satellite-based augmentation services at the FAA who is now a systems engineer in NASA's Office of the Chief Engineer. Bell is a Project Management Institute-certified Project Management Professional. "What I brought to the team was some organization," he said.

The countdown to 2003 was tracked on an office banner. If employees met due dates for software, hardware and other services, Bell celebrated the successes publicly with letters of recognition and, when possible, cash rewards and promotions.

Bell kept an eye on the big picture by having all contractors report earned value management data monthly. EVM, however, was not the most useful discipline, he said.

"We had so many problems at first, and we were such a high-visibility, political program that senior management required us to report to them every other week until we delivered operational service," he said. "This high-level oversight gave the program some real horsepower when it was needed."

Advice from the pros

Name: Harold Bell.

Former title: Program manager of Global Positioning System satellite-based augmentation services.

Organization: Federal Aviation Administration.

Project: Wide Area Augmentation System.

On managing people: "You make commitments and promises within your span of control, and then you follow through. You do a lot of listening, and you grab good ideas and make them a reality. You give credit where credit is due, you never take credit for something that someone else did, and you build ideas with the team and not by yourself."

On managing processes: The system had good processes in place when Bell arrived. His job was to make sure the team followed those processes and that everyone had documentation for them.

On managing technology: Project managers must give clear directions for maintaining existing technology and identifying when new technology is necessary, he said.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group