Acquisition Process

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA)

An Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) is an analytical comparison of the operational effectiveness, suitability, and life-cycle cost of alternative material solutions that satisfy an established capability need to be identified in an Initial Capabilities Document (ICD). It focuses on the 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 material solution, including; technology maturity, integration risk, manufacturing feasibility, and technology maturation and demonstration needs.

Definition: The Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) is a documented evaluation of the performance, operational effectiveness, operational suitability, and estimated costs of alternative systems to meet a capability need that has been identified through the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development Systems (JCIDS) process.

When is the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Conducted

The AoA is conducted during the Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) 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]

How the Analysis of Alternative (AoA) Supports Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) Phase

The AoA process greatly aids the Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) Phase. The AoA process is required to define better the trade space between cost, schedule, and performance after a program has an approved Materiel Development Decision. This will help the Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE) and Service Sponsor choose a preferred materiel solution addressing the capability gaps in the approved Initial Capabilities Document (ICD).

Analysis of Alternative (AoA) Study Guidance

The AoA Study Guidance is developed to guide an Analysis of Alternatives. The guidance is approved by the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (DCAPE) with the input of other DoD officials. Prior to the Materiel Development Decision (MDD) review, the DCAPE provides the AoA study guide to the DoD Component designated by the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA). Following receipt of the AoA study guidance, the DoD Component prepares an AoA study plan that describes the intended methodology for the management and execution of the AoA. The AoA study plan is coordinated with the MDA and approved by DCAPE prior to the MDD review.

Steps to Conducting an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA)

DoD Components should make sure that the AoA is conducted with transparency. More openness makes it easier to understand the analysis and helps leaders focus on what the analysis means because they know where it came from. It also lets Components deal with any problems that might arise before they waste time and effort and do more work. The typical steps in conducting an AoA include:

  • Step 1 Plan: Determine the goals, schedule, stakeholders, funding, team, and deliverables.
  • Step 2 Establish analysis foundation: Determine the problem and scope being addressed and the ground rules and assumptions.
  • Step 3 Identify and Define Alternatives: Identify the alternatives to the problem set.
  • Step 4 Assess Alternatives: Assess each of the alternatives identified
  • Step 5 Compare Alternatives: Determine the pros and cons of alternative solutions
  • Step 6 Report results: Document results for decision-makers
  • Step 7 Follow-up: Conduct a follow-up analysis on any chosen alternative

Notional Analysis of Alternative (AoA) Outline

An AoA will normally include the following sections, although it can (and should) be tailored or streamlined to support the given situation. An outline is provided in the AoA Main References Section below. The normal AoA sections are:

  • Capability Need, Deficiencies, and Opportunities
  • Program Description
  • Threats
  • Operational Environments
  • Operational Concept
  • Operational Requirements
  • Status Quo (Baseline) and Alternatives
  • System Design, Performance, and Measures of Effectiveness
  • Life-Cycle Costs of Baseline and each alternative
  • Life Cycle Cost per unit system
  • Life Cycle Cost per specified quantity of systems
  • Analysis of Alternatives
  • Trade-off Analysis
  • Sensitivity Analysis
  • Recommendations and Conclusions

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Main References

Below are the main references that address conducting an AoA within the defense acquisition system.

Instruction: DoD Instruction 5000.84 “Analysis of Alternatives”

Handbook: Analysis of Alternative (AoA) Handbook – Aug 2017

Outline: Recommended Outline for the AoA Plan

AcqNotes Tutorials

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Reporting and Certification

For Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAP) at Milestone A, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) must certify in writing to 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 Congress that the Department has completed an AoA with respect to the program. [1]

When is the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Updated

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

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Input into the Technology Development Strategy (TDS)

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.

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Input into an Alternative Systems Review (ASR)

Completion of the Alternative Systems Review (ASR) should provide a comprehensive rationale for the proposed material solution(s), based upon the AoA that evaluated relative cost, schedule, performance (hardware, human, software), and technology risks.

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Statutory Requirements

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

Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Regulatory Requirements

For all other specified Program Type/Event combinations.


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

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Updated: 2/13/24

Rank: G3.9

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