Making our projects a success

Fermilab Director
Pier Oddone

Leadership at the Intensity Frontier of particle physics doesn’t just mean more particles for our experiments, it also means more projects for our laboratory. Because each individual Intensity Frontier experiment only tells part of the scientific story, a suite of experiments is needed to fully explore the landscape of new physics. For us to succeed as a laboratory in this new era we must become very good at managing and delivering projects on budget and on schedule. Any one project that does not deliver on its goals can affect adversely our ability to obtain additional projects.

We completed our last two projects, MINERvA and DECam, on budget and on schedule, fully meeting or exceeding their technical specifications. The much larger NOvA project is now nearing completion. From a technical standpoint, NOvA is progressing extremely well. It has driven a number of innovations in detector design and readout. The rate of assembly at Ash River, Minn., means that the far detector will be completed on schedule. The modifications to all four accelerators in Fermilab’s complex are also going very well, and the machines will soon be put through their paces.

There is, however, considerable work left to do, amounting to about $57 million (approximately 20 percent of the total project cost). We are funded to do this work, but the remaining contingency—funds needed to cover unexpected costs—is very small. While we have retired most of the known risks, sufficient contingency is needed to cover those that remain, such as fluctuations in the price of oil, as well as unforeseen problems that can arise over the course of any project. Completing the project on schedule and on budget with the small amount of contingency left requires us to enhance our project management and controls.

We are proceeding to strengthen the management and oversight of NOvA. Effective immediately and for the next six months, Greg Bock will step down from his duties as associate laboratory director for particle physics to direct and oversee the project. Paul Mantsch, who directed the construction of the Pierre Auger Observatory, will also join John Cooper on the NOvA management team. Deputy Director Young-Kee Kim will fill the ALD for particle physics role during this period. After these six-month assignments, we will be able to establish NOvA’s final cost and schedule with a very high degree of confidence, and we expect that the team will be able to return to their normal duties.

In addition to these specific short-term steps for NOvA, we are taking additional measures to ensure that our project management system is successful. I will be discussing these changes in future Director’s Corners.