Acquisition Process Overview

Defense Acquisition System
The Department of Defense (DoD) Acquisition Process is one of three (3) processes (Acquisition, Requirements, and Funding) that makeup and support the Defense Acquisition System and is implemented by DoD Instruction 5000.02 “Operation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework”. This instruction provides the policies and principles that govern the defense acquisition system and forms the management foundation for all DoD programs.

The process also identifies the specific statutory and regulatory reports and other information requirements for each Milestone Review and decision point. The DoD calls the system an event-based process where a program goes thru a series of processes, milestones, and reviews from beginning to end.  Each milestone is the culmination of a phase where it’s determined if a program will proceed into the next phase. The DoD management technique that integrates all these essential acquisition activities is called; Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD).

Major Capability Acquisition

The Major Capability Acquisition Process is for those programs where the traditional acquisition approach has been determined to be the most appropriate. The process is made up of phases and milestones and is detailed in DoD Instruction 5000.02 “Operation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework”.

Acquisition System

 Figure: Major Capability Acquisition Process

Defense Acquisition Phases

Below is a list of the phases that make up the DoD Acquisition Process. Each phase is also depicted in the figure above:

Each phase of the acquisition process has specific DoD regulations and federal statutes that must be met. At the end of each phase, there is a Milestone Review (A,B,C) to determine if the acquisition program has met these required regulations and statutes to continue on into the next phase.

Visit: Milestone Requirements Matrix lists all the key criteria for each phase.

Acquisition Wall Chart: Defense Acquisition Lifecycle Wall Chart – Jan 18

Defense Acquisition Categories

Each acquisition program falls into an Acquisition Category (ACAT) depending on its overall funding level and importance. The category dictates the level of oversight a program will require. This oversight is provided by a Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) which is appointed by DoD senior leadership. The MDA seeks advice from a Defense Acquisition Board (DAB), chaired by the Under Secretary of Defense (OSD) Acquisition & Sustainment (A&S), on major acquisition decisions.

The most expensive programs are known as Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) or Major Automated Information System (MAIS). These programs have the most extensive statutory and regulatory reporting requirements. The ACAT levels are shown below and for more detailed information see the ACAT link.

  • ACAT I: R&D of more than $524M and total procurement $3.065 Billion
  • ACAT II: R&D of more than $200 and total procurement $920 Million
  • ACAT III: Less than ACAT II

Adaptive Acquisition Framework

The Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) supports the Defense Acquisition System by allowing acquisition program personnel the authority to plan and manage their programs and is implemented by DoD Instruction 5000.85 “Major Capability Acquisition”. The framework has six (6) distinct acquisition pathways of which Major Capability Acquisition is one of them.

Main Reference

The Defense Acquisition Guidebook (DAG) is the main guide that details the overall DoD acquisition process and how it fits into the overall Defense Acquisition System. It provides detailed guidance for the development, execution, and disposal of all DoD acquisition programs. It’s designed to complement the policy documents governing DoD acquisitions by providing the acquisition workforce with discretionary best practices that should be tailored to the needs of each program.

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 6/7/2021

Rank: G1

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