Major Capability Acquisition (MCA)

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Milestone C

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Reference Source: DODI 5000.85 Section 3.12


Milestone C is the point at which a program is reviewed for entrance into the Production and Deployment Phase.


The following information will typically be considered: the results of developmental tests and evaluations and any early operational test and evaluation; evidence that the production design is stable; the results of an operational assessment (if conducted); the maturity of the software; any significant manufacturing risks; the status of critical intelligence parameters and intelligence mission data requirements, relative to fielding timelines; and full funding.



The MDA’s decision to approve Milestone C will authorize the program to proceed to the P&D Phase, enter LRIP or begin limited deployment for AISs, and award contracts for the phase.


High Cost First Article Combined Milestone B and C decisions

Some programs such as spacecraft and ships will not produce prototypes during EMD for use solely as test articles because of the high cost of each article. In that case, the first article produced will be tested and evaluated, and then fielded as an operational asset. The acquisition approach for these programs can be tailored by measures such as combining development and initial production investment commitments and a combined Milestone B and C. Additional decision points with appropriate criteria may be established for subsequent production commitments.

See the Adaptive Acquisition Framework Document Identification (AAFDID) tool for the statutory and regulatory information required.

T&E Considerations

Reference Source: DAG CH 8-4.3.5 T&E Planning for Milestone C

Milestone C is the point at which a program is reviewed for entrance into the Production and Deployment (P&D) phase. Approval depends on specific criteria defined at Milestone B and included in the Milestone B ADM. For Milestone C approval, the following general criteria apply:

  • An approved Acquisition Strategy (AS).
  • Demonstration that the production design is stable and meets stated and derived requirements based on acceptable performance in developmental test.
  • An operational assessment.
  • Mature software capability consistent with the software development schedule.
  • No significant manufacturing risks.
  • A validated final requirements document (normally a Capability Production Document (CPD)).
  • Demonstrated cybersecurity.
  • Demonstrated interoperability.
  • Demonstrated operational supportability.
  • Costs within affordability caps.
  • Full funding in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP).
  • Properly phased production ramp up and/or fielding support.

TEMP at Milestone C

The Milestone C TEMP is an update of the Milestone B TEMP, including the developmental evaluation framework. The Milestone C TEMP contains an updated T&E strategy for IOT&E. The program demonstrates the stability of production design and meets stated and derived requirements based on acceptable performance in developmental test. Updated reliability growth curves at Milestone C reflect test results to date and any updates to the reliability growth plan.

Incremental Software Capability programs (and other acquisition models that do not have a Milestone C) are, in some cases, asked to provide an operational test plan for IOT&E.

RFP at Milestone C

Given the maturity of the program at this stage in the acquisition cycle, programs may need to update the RFP accordingly. The updated RFP may include changes to T&E requirements. The RFP is consistent with the Milestone C TEMP, CPD, Acquisition Strategy (AS), etc.

Reference Source: DAG CH 8-4.3.6 T&E Reporting in Milestone C Decision

Development of the MDA position on the risk of a Milestone C approval for initiating Production is based on:

  • Evaluations of DT and OT (if applicable) results from the preceding EMD phase, including consideration of how thoroughly the system was stressed during EMD (mission-oriented context and operationally realistic environments).
  • Assessment of the risk of a design change affecting production.
  • Adequacy of the DT&E planning (e.g., requirements that can be evaluated, TEMP adequacy and currency, developmental evaluation framework, DT&E schedule, test resources availability, and modeling and simulation evaluated for mission capabilities) for the remaining P&D phase.

T&E support of Milestone C entrance criteria includes:

  • Evaluations of DT results.
  • OA results.
  • Security Assessment Report provided by the SCA.
  • Any applicable certifications required (e.g., airworthiness, safety, etc.).

Based on the DT&E and OA results of EMD, reporting substantiates:

  • Performance in DT&E.
  • Test results that demonstrate a readiness for production.
  • Mature software capability.
  • Interoperability.
  • Operational supportability.
  • Cybersecurity.

Reference Source: DAG CH 8-4.3.7 T&E Role in Milestone C Decision

Milestone C serves as the point at which a program is reviewed for entrance into the Production and Deployment Phase. The role of T&E at Milestone C is to inform the MDA as to whether the:

  • Design is stable.
  • System meets validated capability requirements.
  • System has met or exceeds all directed EMD phase exit criteria.
  • DT&E results support an initial production decision.
  • OT&E results support an initial production decision

Sustainment Considerations

Reference Source: DAG CH 4-3.3.3 Milestone C

The activities undertaken by the PM to finalize designs for product support elements and integrate them into a comprehensive product support package are approved as part of the Milestone C decision.

Key Sustainment Questions
  • Is the reliability growth on target?
  • Are sustainment metrics achievable by FOC?
  • Have O&S affordability caps been updated?
  • Have updated CAPE ICE and SCP been reconciled?
  • Have disposal costs been updated to the final production design?
  • Do acquisition budgets include product support element delivery?
  • Are O&S Should Cost initiatives implemented?

The Life Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP) at Milestone C should lay out the plan to verify sustainment metrics and requirements, deliver product support to test and evaluation assets, and provide support for initial fielding.

At Milestone C, the cost estimators update the LCCE, including O&S and disposal costs, from Milestone B to reflect the current programmatic and technical baseline. An ICE is only required if the Milestone C decision authorizes LRIP. The PM provides actual testing data and results to the cost estimators for incorporation into the updated O&S estimate, as well as cost savings from any successful O&S Should Cost Initiatives.

O&S Should Cost initiative opportunities continue after development, although PMs can expect these later Should Cost initiatives to yield lower savings since it is difficult to change design characteristics once the system is built. By the Milestone C decision, Should Cost Initiatives may reflect O&S Cost drivers highlighted during testing. As the program’s design is finalized, O&S Should Cost initiatives that were geared toward significant design influence should have achieved their desired effect.

The PM’s input at Milestone C focuses on cost estimates and funding requirements necessary to procure and sustain logistics and sustainment-related capabilities to stand-up support for the operational test assets and initial production systems (initial spares, support equipment, information systems, initial training capability, etc.).