An Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) is an analytical comparison of the operational effectiveness, suitability, and life-cycle cost of alternatives materiel solution that satisfy an established capability need identified in an Initial Capabilities Document (ICD). It focuses on identification and analysis of alternatives, Measures of Effectiveness (MOE), schedule, Concepts of Operations (CONOPS), and overall risk.  An AoA also assesses Critical Technology Elements (CTEs) associated with each proposed materiel solution, including; technology maturity, integration risk, manufacturing feasibility, and technology maturation and demonstration needs.

Handbook: Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Handbook – July 2016

Outline: Recommended Outline for the AoA Plan

The AoA is conducted during the Materiel Solution (MS) Phase before Milestone A. The final AoA supporting a Milestone A decision is provided to the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (DCAPE) not later than 60 days prior to the milestone decision review meeting. The DCAPE normally develops and approves AoA Study Guidance. [1]

The Technology Development Strategy (TDS) should highlight how the risks identified in the AoA areas are going to be addressed and minimized in the Technology Maturation & Risk Reduction (TMRR) Phase and on the path to full manufacturing capability in the Production and Deployment (PD) Phase.

An AoA should be updated and performed in each acquisition phase and throughout the lifecycle of a program to guarantee that the correct materiel solution is being developed.  The update should be used to refine the proposed materiel solution and reaffirm the rationale in terms of cost-effectiveness.

For Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAP) at Milestone A, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) must certify in writing to the Congress that the Department has completed an AoA consistent with study guidance developed by the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (DCAPE).  For MDAPs at Milestone B, the MDA must certify in writing to the Congress that the Department has completed an AoA with respect to the program. [1]

An AoA provides input into a Alternative Systems Review (ASR). Completion of the ASR should provide the following information from an AoA: [1]

  • A comprehensive rationale for the proposed materiel solution(s), based upon the AoA that evaluated relative cost, schedule, performance (hardware, human, software), and technology risks.
  • See Risk Management Overview

STATUTORY: for MDAP, Major Automated Information System (MAIS) programs, and all Automated Information Systems (AIS) programs, including National Security Systems (NSSs), at Milestone A. Updates required through Milestone C (or Milestone B if there is no Milestone C) for MAIS programs, and all AIS programs.

REGULATORY: for all other specified Program Type/Event combinations.

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Guidance
For potential and designated ACAT I and IA programs, the Director for Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (DCAPE) prepares study guidance for Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) review and approval at the Materiel Development Decision (MDD).


  • The Milestone Decision Authority will determine if a new or updated AoA in needed after Milestone A. Make sure you know the AoA requirements during each phase.

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 5/22/2018

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