Fast Facts

Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide

Best Practices for Developing and Managing Program Costs

GAO-20-195G | March 2020

Source: Jirapong/

Legislators, government officials, and the public want to know whether government programs are achieving their goals and what their costs are. To make these kinds of evaluations of the latest ship, IT system, or other acquisition, reliable cost forecasts and updates are required.

We developed this guide, initially published in 2009, to provide agencies across the government with a way to produce reliable, high quality cost estimates. It outlines key steps in the estimating process.

This is our first update to the guide. It includes improved descriptions of cost estimating steps, additional technical information, and an updated format.