Program Management

Management Reserve

Management Reserve (MR) is the amount of the Total Allocated Budget (TAB) withheld for management control purposes, rather than designated for the accomplishment of a specific task or set of tasks. It is held and applied through a disciplined process to any additional work that is to be accomplished within the authorized work scope of the contract or applied to accommodate rate changes for future work. MR focuses on work that wasn’t expected, sometimes called “Unknown-Unknowns”. [1]

Definition: Management Reserve (MR) is the amount of the budget that is withheld to address unplanned work.

Purpose of Management Reserve (MR)

The purpose of having a management reserve is to have money available to address any unforeseeable situation on a program without having to go back and ask for more money.

Calculating Management Reserve (MR)

MR is usually derived from a percentage of the overall project budget. The typical DoD program MR is between 5%-15%. The MR will change depending on the type of program; higher for research and development and lower for straight procurement with a known product. A Program Manager (PM) should look at the past performance of similar programs in determining an appropriate MR.

MR should be established once the full scope of work and budget are in place and risk analysis of the program relative to the budget and planning can be done. It’s also included in the project’s Budget at Completion (BAC).

Management Reserve (MR) Should Not Be Used: [2]

  • To offset or minimize existing cost variances
  • To offset accumulated overruns or underruns
  • For a contingency budget that can be used for new work
  • It’s not eliminated from the contract price during negotiations
  • It’s not included as part of the performance measurement baseline

Contingency Reserve vs. Management Reserve (MR)

The contingency reserve is focused on managing risks that have been identified on a program where the management reserve is focused strictly on the unforeseeable situations. However, the reality is that most small-sized organizations do not differentiate between them.


  • Don’t confuse Management Reserve with Contingency Funds. Contingency funds are for risks that have been identified in the program.

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 7/2/2021

Rank: 1.3

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