Various industry standards describe Systems Engineering processes. These outline ways to accomplish the overall Systems Engineering effort. Generally, the DoD does not contractually impose any particular System Engineering standard on developers. However, DoD Systems Engineering professionals need to be familiar with the particular standard or combination of standards that developers may choose to use on their project.  This understanding is essential to properly evaluate a developer’s Systems Engineering proposals and plans. It also helps DoD Systems Engineers understand how the developer’s proposed Systems Engineering processes will ultimately align with that of the acquirer’s.

Systems Engineering Standards – A Summary

These standards, which vary considerably in their depth and breadth of coverage, include:

ISO/IEC 15288 “Systems Engineering – System Life Cycle Processes”
This international standard has the greatest breadth but the least depth of coverage. It is useful for top-level planning primarily at the organizational level. This standard is designed to be used by an organization, a project within an organization, or an acquirer and a supplier via an appropriate agreement. Updated in 2008, this standard was re-issued unchanged as a US standard.

EIA-632 “Processes for Engineering a System”
This US standard defines the set of requirements for engineering a system. The processes in EIA 632 describe ‘what to do’ with respect to the processes for engineering a system. These are at the next level down from the ISO/IEC 15288 level of system life cycle processes.

IEEE 1220 “Standard for Application and Management of Systems Engineering”
This US standard defines a Systems Engineering process. It gives the next level of detail below the process requirements described in EIA 632. The process is described more at the task or application level. This US standard was adopted at the international level as ISO/IEC 26702:  Systems Engineering–Application and Management of the Systems Engineering Process.


  • There is no one standard definition or systems engineering process. It’s a collection of ways and means across many disciplines. Best practices, guidebooks and lessons learned are a great source of systems engineering knowledge.
  • Each program is different so there is no one process that perfectly fits. It’s the job of the systems engineer to modify the process to meets their programs needs the most

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 7/17/2017

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