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Alternative Systems Review (ASR)

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Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.1 Alternative Systems Review

The Alternative Systems Review (ASR) is held to support a dialogue between the end user and acquisition community and leads to a draft performance specification for the preferred materiel solution. The ASR typically occurs during the Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) phase, after completion of the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) and before Milestone A. It focuses technical efforts on requirements analysis.

The ASR should evaluate whether there is sufficient understanding of the technical maturity, feasibility and risk of the preferred materiel solution, in terms of addressing the operational capability needs in the Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) and meeting affordability, technology and operational effectiveness and suitability goals.

The ASR helps the Program Manager (PM) and Systems Engineer ensure that further engineering and technical analysis needed to draft the system performance specification is consistent with customer needs.

CJCSI 3170.01 (now CJCSI 5123.01H) calls for a Functional Capabilities Board (FCB) review prior to Milestone A. This FCB review should ensure compatibility between the operational capability needs in the ICD and the maturity, feasibility and risks of the preferred materiel solution.

Roles and Responsibilities

Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.1 Alternative Systems Review

The unique PM responsibilities associated with an ASR include:

  • Approving, funding and staffing the ASR.


The unique Systems Engineer responsibilities associated with an ASR include:

  • Ensuring adequate plans are in place to complete the necessary technical activities for the ASR.
  • Ensuring results of all technical trade studies are captured in documents that are carried through to the next phase.
  • Ensuring technical risk items are identified and analyzed, and appropriate mitigation plans are in place. This activity should include, for example, the identification of critical technologies and identification of key interfaces with supporting or enabling systems.

Inputs and Outputs

Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.1 Alternative Systems Review

The ASR typically occurs after the AoA is complete and after a preferred materiel solution is selected by the lead Service or Component but before the FCB review.

This timing allows the focus of the ASR to be on the preferred materiel solution rather than on all the alternatives, and allows for some post-AoA technical analysis to be completed and inform the FCB deliberations.

  • The AoA results are an input to the ASR. The AoA should have evaluated a number of candidate materiel solutions and identified those alternatives that can meet the user requirements within the remaining trade space (including cost and affordability constraints).
  • After the AoA is complete, the operational requirements community and the acquisition community collaboratively identify one or more preferred materiel solution(s) with the potential to be affordable, operationally effective and suitable, sustainable and technically and technologically achievable (i.e., able to provide a timely solution to the stated operational capability need at an acceptable level of risk). This preferred materiel solution is also an input to the ASR.
  • The draft Concept of Operations/Operational Mode Summary/Mission Profile (CONOPS/OMS/MP) should be available as an input to the ASR. It should have been available for use in the AoA and can then be used to support development of missions and operational scenarios to evaluate the preferred materiel solution.

Table 28 identifies the products and associated review criteria normally seen as part of the ASR. The Chief Engineer should review this table and tailor the criteria for the program. The ASR should not begin until the criteria are met. A resource for ASR preparation is IEEE 15288.2 “Standard for Technical Reviews and Audits on Defense Programs”. This is a best practice review.

Table 28: ASR Products and Criteria


ASR Criteria

Refined Joint Requirements
  • Joint context and initial CONOPS/OMS/MP updated to reflect current user position about capability gap(s), supported missions, interfacing/enabling systems in the operational architecture; overall system of systems (SoS) context
  • Required related solutions and supporting references (ICD and CDDs) identified
  • Joint refined thresholds and objectives initially stated as broad measures of effectiveness and suitability (e.g., KPPs, KSAs, need date)
Initial Architecture for the Preferred Materiel Solution(s)
  • High-level description of the preferred materiel solution(s) is available and sufficiently detailed and understood to enable further technical analysis in preparation for Milestone A
  • SoS interfaces and external dependencies are adequately defined
System Performance Specification
  • Clear understanding of the system requirements consistent with the ICD and draft CDD (if available)
  • System requirements are sufficiently understood to enable functional definition
  • Draft system performance specification has sufficiently conservative requirements to allow for design trade space
  • Relationship between draft system performance specification and risk reduction prototyping and competitive prototyping objectives is established
Preferred Materiel Solution(s) Documentation
  • Comprehensive rationale is available for the preferred materiel solution(s), based on the AoA
  • Key assumptions and constraints associated with preferred materiel solution(s) are identified and support the conclusion that this solution can reasonably be expected to satisfy the ICD (or draft CDD if available) in terms of technical, operational, risk and schedule/cost (affordability) criteria
  • Results of trade studies/technical demonstrations for concept risk reduction, if available
  • Initial producibility assessments of solution concepts
Risk Assessment
  • Technical risks are identified, and mitigation plans are in development
  • Initial hazard analysis/system safety analysis for preferred solution(s) complete


Outputs and Products

Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.1 Alternative Systems Review

The Technical Review Chair determines when the review is complete. ASR technical outputs should include, but not be limited to, the following products, including supporting rationale and trade-off analysis results:

  • Refined description of the preferred materiel solution to support further development
  • Informed advice to the user-developed draft Capability Development Document (CDD) required at Milestone A