A Concept of Operations (CONOPS) is a verbal or graphic statement of a commander’s assumptions or intent in regard to an operation or series of operations as defined by Joint Publication 1-02 “DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms”. It’s designed to give an overall picture of an operation.

Template: Concept of Operations (CONOPS)

In Acquisitions, a CONOPS is used to examine current and new and/or proposed capabilities required to solve a current or emerging problem.  It describes how a system will be used from the viewpoints of its various stakeholders. This provides a bridge between the often vague capabilities that a project begins with and the specific technical requirements needed to make is successful.  A CONOPS is a useful tool that helps the user community write/refine their Initial Capabilities Documents (ICD), System Requirements Document (SRD) and Capabilities Development Documents (CDD).

REGULATORY:  Component approved acquisition document that is derived from and consistent with the validated/approved capability requirements document. Will be provided to the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) at the specified decision events and normally provided to industry as part of the Request for Proposal (RFP). [2]

There are several reasons for developing a Concept of Operations:

  • Get stakeholder agreement identifying how the system is to be operated, who is responsible for what, what the lines of communication;
  • Define the high-level system concept and justify that it is superior to the other alternatives;
  • Define the environment in which the system will operate;
  • Derive high-level requirements in the ICD and CDD;
  • Provide the criteria to be used for validation of the completed system

A CONOPS can be developed in many different ways but usually share the same properties. In general it will include the following:

  • Statement of the goals and objectives of the system
  • Strategies, tactics, policies, and constraints affecting the system
  • Organizations, activities, and interactions among participants and stakeholders
  • Clear statement of responsibilities and authorities delegated
  • Specific operational processes for fielding the system
  • Processes for initiating, developing, maintaining, and retiring the system

Checklist: Critical Information

  • Is the reason for developing the system clearly stated?
  • Are all the stakeholders identified and their anticipated roles described?
  • Are alternative operational approaches described and the selected approach justified?
  • Is the external environment described?
    • Does it include required interfaces to existing systems?
  • Is the support environment described?
    • Does it include maintenance?
  • Is the operational environment described?


  • The CONOPS is also called a commander’s concept

AcqLinks and Resources:

Updated: 2/19/2019

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