Adaptive Acquisition Framework Pathways

Tailor, combine, and transition between pathways to create your program strategy!

Click on each acquisition pathway below to learn more

Urgent Capability Acquisition Middle Tier Acquisition Major Capability Acquisition Software Acquisition Defense Business Systems Acquisition of Services

Tenets of the Defense Acquisition System

  1. Simplify Acquisition Policy
  2. Tailor Acquisition Approaches
  3. Empower Program Managers
  4. Data Driven Analytics
  5. Active Risk Management
  6. Emphasize Sustainment

Policy and Purpose of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF)

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.02 Section 1


The DAS supports the National Defense Strategy through the development of a lethal and effective force based on U.S. technological innovation and a culture of performance that yields decisive and sustained U.S. military advantage.  To achieve that objective, the DoD will employ an AAF.


The AAF supports the DAS with the objective of delivering effective, suitable, survivable, sustainable, and affordable solutions to the end user in a timely manner. To achieve those objectives, Milestone Decision Authorities (MDAs), other Decision Authorities (DAs), and Program Managers (PMs) have broad authority to plan and manage their programs consistent with sound business practice. The AAF acquisition pathways provide opportunities for MDAs/DAs and PMs to develop acquisition strategies and employ acquisition processes that match the characteristics of the capability being acquired.

General Procedures

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.02 Section 4.1


PMs will develop an acquisition strategy for MDA approval that matches the acquisition pathway processes, reviews, documents, and metrics to the character and risk of the capability being acquired.


PMs, with the approval of MDAs/DAs, may leverage a combination of acquisition pathways to provide value not otherwise available through use of a single pathway.  The use of multiple pathways does not affect the application of statutory thresholds otherwise applicable to the program as a whole, such as the MDAP or major system (ACAT II) thresholds unless a statute permits.  PMs employing multiple pathways will:

  1. Define the transition points from one pathway to another pathway.
  2. Anticipate, develop, and coordinate the information requirements required at the new pathway entry point.  Links provided in [AAFDID]. identify regulatory and statutory information requirements for major capability acquisition, and the statutory requirements for other pathways.
  3. Ensure a smooth transition.

In addition, PMs will:

  1. “Tailor in” the regulatory information requirements that will be used to describe the management of the program.  In this context, “tailoring-in” means that the PM will identify, and recommend for MDA/DA approval,  the regulatory information that will be employed to document program plans and how that information will be formatted and provided for review by the decision authority.  The PM’s recommendation will be reviewed by the MDA/DA, and the MDA/DA’s decision will be documented in an acquisition decision memorandum.  MDAs/DAs will coordinate, when necessary, with other regulatory document approval authorities to facilitate implementation of this approach.  Statutory requirements will not be waived unless a statute permits.
  2. Design program and business strategies to facilitate the acquisition of appropriate and cost effective technology solutions and achieve mission success while being mutually advantageous to the DoD and its industry partners.  Similarly, PMs will consider acquisition strategies that leverage international acquisition and supportability planning to improve economies of scale, strengthen the defense industrial base, and enhance coalition partner capabilities to prepare for joint operations.
  3. Recognize that cybersecurity is a critical aspect of program planning.  It must be addressed early and continuously during the program life cycle to ensure cybersecurity operational and technical risks are identified and reduced and that fielded systems are capable, effective, and resilient.
  4. Consider the procurement of data deliverables and associated license rights needed to support competitive acquisition and life-cycle sustainment strategies.
  5. Prioritize product support and affordability during early program planning to ensure sustained mission effectiveness.
  6. Establish a risk management program to ensure program cost, schedule, and performance objectives are achieved, and to communicate the process for managing program uncertainty.  In consultation with the user representative, the PM will determine which environment, safety, and occupational health risks must be eliminated or mitigated, and which risks can be accepted.
  7. When consistent with pathway requirements, develop engineering plans and processes applicable to the pathways to mature technology, conduct necessary systems engineering tradeoffs, and produce and manage appropriate technical baselines through the use of systems engineering technical reviews.

The Defense Acquisition Guidebook (DAG) has been retired and superseded by individual guidebooks (available on the Acquisition Guidebooks page).  All references to the DAG and associated chapters in these Pathway pages will be revised as Pathway content is updated.