Acquisition Process

Milestone Decision Authority (MDA)

The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is the overall executive sponsor responsible for any Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP).  The MDA formally initiates each increment of an evolutionary acquisition program as required by DoD Instruction 5000.85 “Major Capability Acquisition”. They determine if a program has met its phase exit requirement and can proceed into the next phase during a Milestone review in terms of cost, schedule, and performance.  The Under Secretary of Defense (USD) (A&S) is the MDA for all major Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1 programs unless delegated. Program initiation may occur at Milestone B or C.

For MDAP at Milestone B, the MDA must certify in writing to Congress that the program is affordable and that the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (DCAPE) concurs with reasonable cost and schedule estimates to execute the program development and production plans.

Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) Reviews:

 The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is usually the approval authority for:

Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) Legal Code 10 USC 4204

The milestone decision authority for a major defense acquisition program reaching Milestone A after October 1, 2016, shall be the service acquisition executive of the military department that is managing the program unless the Secretary of Defense designates another official to serve as the milestone decision authority.

The Secretary of Defense may designate an alternate milestone decision authority for a program with respect to which any of the following applies:

  • The Secretary determines that the program is addressing a joint requirement.
  • The Secretary determines that the program is best managed by a Defense Agency.
  • The program has incurred a unit cost increase greater than the significant cost threshold or critical cost threshold
  • The program is critical to a major interagency requirement or technology development effort, or has significant international partner involvement.
  • The Secretary determines that an alternate official serving as the milestone decision authority will best provide for the program to achieve desired cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.

Website: 10 USC 4204: Milestone Decision Authority (MDA)


  • For the most updated list of MDA-approved documents visit the DAU Adaptive Acquisition Framework Document Identification (AAFDID). It can be found on the DAU website.

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 3/21/2021

Rank: G1


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