A Critical Design Review (CDR) is a multi-disciplined technical review to ensure that a system can proceed into fabrication, demonstration, and test and can meet stated performance requirements within cost, schedule, and risk.  A successful CDR is predicated upon a determination that the detailed design satisfies the Capabilities Development Document (CDD).  Multiple CDRs may be held for key Configuration Items (CI) and/or at each subsystem level, culminating in a system-level CDR. The CDR is conducted during the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) phase and when the product baseline has been achieved and the CDR entrance criteria detailed in the Systems Engineering Plan (SEP) have been met, allowing fabrication of hardware and coding of software deliverables to proceed.


Checklist: DoD Critical Design Review (CDR)

Checklist: Critical Design Review Checklist – Jan 2015


A CDR assesses the system’s final design as captured in product specifications for each Configuration Item in the system’s product baseline and ensures that each configuration item has been captured in the detailed design documentation. The resulting set of detailed drawings and specifications establish an initial product baseline, with a final baseline incorporating any design changes resulting from System Demonstration and Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E).  The completion of CDR usually initiates the start of formal Configuration Management (CM) by the Contractor of the Technical Baseline.  Any changes to that baseline can only be accomplished with the approval of the Government.


A CDR should: [1]

  • Determine that detailed design of the configuration item under review satisfies cost (for cost-type contracts), schedule, and performance requirements.
  • Establish detail design compatibility among the configuration item and other items of equipment, facilities, computer software, and personnel.
  • Assess configuration item risk areas (on a technical, cost, and schedule basis).
  • Assess the results of producibility analyses conducted on system hardware.
  • Review preliminary hardware product specifications.
  • Determine the acceptability of the detailed design, performance, and test characteristics, and on the adequacy of the operation and support documents.


Completion of CDR should provide: [1]

  1. A system initial Product Baseline,
  2. An updated risk assessment for Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD),
  3. An updated Cost Analysis Requirements Description (CARD) based on the system product baseline,
  4. An updated program development schedule including fabrication, test, and evaluation, and software coding, critical path drivers, and
  5. An approved Life-Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP) updating program sustainment development efforts and schedules based on current budgets, test evaluation results, and firm supportability design features.


Post-CDR Assessment
For Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAP), the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Engineering) “DASD(SE)” will assess the design maturity and technical risks evident in the CDR. Program Managers (PM) of these programs are required to invite DASD(SE) engineers to their system-level CDRs and make available CDR artifacts. These will include all CDR briefings and those artifacts that constitute the initial product baseline.



  • The CDR chairperson should tailor the review to the technical scope and risk of the system, and address specifics of the CDR in the Systems Engineering Plan (SEP).
  • See Major Reviews

AcqLinks and References:

Update: 12/26/2017

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