Throughout the acquisition process, systems engineering provides the technical foundation for acquisition programs. Particularly in the early stages of an acquisition, systems engineering analysis and products are vital to the early program offices ability to assess appropriately the feasibility of addressing user needs, technology drivers and risks of potential solutions, and robust estimates of cost schedule and risk, all leading to predictable, disciplined acquisition reviews.
The direction from Congress in the 2009 Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act (WSARA) recognized that beginning technical analysis once the acquisition process has begun (during Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA)) may itself be too late. Technical planning for development needs to begin before acquisition is formally considered to provide the basis for making the initial Materiel Development Decision (MDD).
"Development Planning encompasses the engineering analysis and technical planning activities that provide the foundation for informed investment decisions on the fundamental path a materiel development will follow to effectively and affordably meet operational needs. Development Planning is initiated prior to the Materiel Development Decision, continues throughout the Materiel Solution Analysis phase, and eventually transitions to the program environment."
Data from Government Accountability Office reports and other Government and independent studies consistently point to early program planning as a focus area for regaining control of defense program spending and results (see below). These studies have found that scoping and requirement decisions made early in a systems acquisition cycle, even before program initiation, can have a tremendous impact on subsequent development success and production costs. Enclosure 3 (Systems Engineering) of the Interim DoDI 5000.02 Operation of the Defense Acquisition System (November 25, 2013) provides current policy in this area:
- In preparation for the Materiel Development Decision, and to inform an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), the Components will conduct early systems engineering analyses and conduct an assessment of how the proposed candidate materiel solution approaches are technically feasible and have the potential to effectively address capability gaps, desired operational attributes, and associated external dependencies.
- During the Materiel Solution Analysis Phase, the Components will conduct early systems engineering analyses, informed by and in support of the AoA, to support selection of a preferred materiel solution and development of the draft Capability Development Document (or equivalent requirements document)
- In preparation for Milestone A, and to provide the technical basis for executing the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction Phase, the Program Manager will conduct an early systems engineering assessment of technical risks and develop the technical approach for acquiring the product. This technical assessment will include software, integration, manufacturing, and reliability risks. The results will be incorporated in the SEP for Milestone A.
To assist with MDD preparations, the ODASD(SE) has developed a set of sample Development Planning templates. These templates are an example of how to evaluate the necessary evidence needed by the MDA, as stated previously.
- Government Accountability Office, DOD WEAPON SYSTEMS: Missed Trade-off Opportunities During Requirements Reviews, GAO-11-502, June 2011
- Government Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, GAO-11-233SP, March 2011
- National Research Council, Evaluation of U.S. Air Force Preacquisition Technology Development, Washington, DC, (National Academies Press, 2011)
- Government Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, GAO-10-388SP, March 2010
- Government Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Many Analyses of Alternatives Have Not Provided a Robust Assessment of Weapon System Options, GAO-09-665, September 2009
- Government Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Charting a Course for Lasting Reform, GAO-09-663T, April 2009
- Government Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Assessments of Selected Major Weapon Programs, GAO-05-301, March 2005
- National Research Council, Pre-Milestone A and Early-Phase Systems Engineering: A Retrospective Review and Benefits for Future Air Force Acquisition, Washington, DC, (National Academies Press, 2008)
For additional information about the Development Planning Initiative, contact the ODASD(SE) Deputy Director for Development Planning.