The Defense Acquisition System divides acquisition programs into four (3) Acquisition Categories (ACAT): ACAT I, ACAT II, and ACAT III. The difference between each categories is dependent on the location of a program in the Acquisition Process, funding amount for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), total procurement cost, Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) special interest and decision authority. The categories are listed below:

Acquisition Category Reason for ACAT Designation Decision Authority
ACAT I Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP)1 (10 U.S.C. of Title 10)

  • Dollar value for all increments of the program: estimated by the DAE to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation (RDT&E) of more than $525 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 constant dollars or, for procurement, of more than $3.065 billion in FY 2020 constant dollars
  • MDA designation

MDA designation as special interest3

ACAT ID: DAE or as delegated

ACAT IC: Head of the DoD Component or, if delegated, the CAE

ACAT IB: SAE 2

ACAT II
  • Does not meet criteria for ACAT I
  • Major system (10 U.S.C. 2302d of Title 10)
    • Dollar value: estimated by the DoD Component Head to require an eventual total expenditure for RDT&E of more than $200 million in FY 2020 constant dollars, or for procurement of more than $920 million in FY 2020 constant dollars
    • MDA designation (10 U.S.C. 2302 of Title 10)
CAE or the individual designated by the CAE 4
ACAT III
  • Does not meet dollar value threshold for ACAT II or above
  • Is not designated a “major system” by the MDA
 Designated by the CAE4
  1. Unless designated an MDAP by the Secretary of Defense (SecDef), AIS programs5, Defense Business System programs, and programs or projects carried out using rapid prototyping or fielding procedures pursuant to Section 804 of Public Law (PL) 114-92, do not meet the definition of an MDAP.
  2. ACAT IB decision authority is assigned pursuant to Section 2430 of Title 10, U.S.C. Paragraph 3A.2.b. provides DoD implementation details.
  3. The Special Interest designation is typically based on one or more of the following factors: technological complexity; congressional interest; a large commitment of resources; or the program is critical to the achievement of a capability or set of capabilities, part of a system of systems, or a joint program. Programs that already meet the MDAP thresholds cannot be designated as Special Interest.
  4. As delegated by the SecDef or Secretary of the Military Department. 
  5. An AIS is a system of computer hardware, computer software, data or telecommunications that performs functions such as collecting, processing, storing, transmitting, and displaying information. Excluded are computer resources, both hardware and software, that are: embedded as an integral part of a weapon or weapon system; used for highly sensitive classified programs (as determined by the SecDef) or other highly sensitive information technology programs (as determined by the DoD Chief Information Officer; or determined by the DAE or designee to be better overseen as a non-AIS program (e.g., a program with a low ratio of research, development, testing, and evaluation funding to total program acquisition costs or that requires significant hardware development). An AIS that breaches the dollar thresholds in Section 2302d of Title 10, U.S.C., as adjusted, is a “major system.”

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 8/06/2020

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