Major Capability Acquisition (MCA)

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Operational Testing

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DoD and Service policy is indicated by a BLUE vertical line.

Directly quoted material is preceeded with a link to the Reference Source.

Reference Source: DODI 5000.89 Section 4.4


For programs under T&E oversight, the DOT&E will provide the MDA with milestone assessments. The DOT&E will submit a report to the Secretary of Defense and the congressional defense committees before programs under T&E oversight may proceed beyond LRIP, in accordance with Sections 2366 and 2399 of Title 10, U.S.C. Programs on T&E oversight may not conduct operational testing until the DOT&E approves the adequacy of the plans in writing, in accordance with Section 2399(b)(1) of Title 10, U.S.C.


Service OTAs will conduct OT on all programs to support development, fielding decisions, and warfighter understanding of capabilities and limitations. Following initial fielding, any capability upgrades, alterations that materially change system performance, and alterations that pose substantial risk of degrading fielded military capabilities if they fail will be tested by the OTA.


Unless specifically waived, the test-related documentation that is required for MDAP programs will be required for all programs on DOT&E oversight, including, but not limited to, submission of Defense Intelligence Agency or DoD Component validated on-line life-cycle threat reports, test strategies, TEMPs, OTPs, LFTPs, and reporting of test results.


Reference Source: DODI 5000.89 Section 6.1

For programs under T&E oversight, the DOT&E will provide the MDA with milestone assessments. The DOT&E will submit a report to the Secretary of Defense and the congressional defense committees before programs under T&E oversight may proceed beyond LRIP, in accordance with Sections 2366 and 2399 of Title 10, U.S.C. The report will state the opinion of the Director, as to:

  • Whether the test and evaluation performed were adequate.
  • Whether the results of such test and evaluation confirm that the items or components actually tested are effective and suitable for combat.


OT&E Activities

Reference Source: DODI 5000.89 Section 6.2



  • The lead OTA will prepare and report results of one or more EOAs as appropriate in support of one or more of the design phase life-cycle events (namely, the capability development document validation, the development RFP release decision point, or MS B). An EOA is typically an assessment, conducted in accordance with an approved test plan, of the program’s progress in identifying operational design constraints, developing system capabilities, and reducing program risks. For programs that enter development at MS B, the lead OTA will (as appropriate) prepare and report EOA results after program initiation and before the critical design review.
  • The lead OTA conducts an OA in accordance with a test plan approved by the DOT&E for programs that are under T&E oversight. OAs can include dedicated early operational testing, as well as developmental test results, provided they are conducted with operational realism. As a general criterion for proceeding through MS C, the lead OTA will conduct and report results of at least one OA. For an acquisition program using an incrementally deployed software program model, a risk-appropriate OA is usually required in support of every limited deployment. An OT, usually an OA, is required before deployment of accelerated or urgent acquisition programs that are under T&E or LFT&E oversight. The OTA may combine an OA with training events. An OA may not be required for programs that enter the acquisition system at MS C.



  • The Military Services will provide to the DOT&E and USD(R&E) an approved final draft TEMP or other test strategy documentation before release of RFPs for MS B and MS C. To the maximum extent feasible, RFPs should be consistent with the OT program documented in the TEMP, or other test strategy documentation.


OT&E for Reliability and Maintainability.

  • The TEMP, or other test strategy documentation, will include a plan to allocate top-level reliability and maintainability requirements and rationale for the requirements that may be allocated down to the components and sub-components. Reliability allocations may include hardware and software, and may include commercial and non-developmental items.


Operational Test Readiness.

  • The DoD Components will each establish an operational test readiness review process to be executed before any OT. Before IOT&E, the process will include a review of DT&E results; an assessment of the system’s progress against the KPPs, key system attributes, and critical technical parameters in the TEMP, or other test strategy documentation; an analysis of identified technical risks to verify that those risks have been retired or reduced to the extent possible during DT&E or OT&E; a review of system certifications; and a review of the IOT&E entrance criteria specified in the TEMP, or other test strategy documentation.



Testing in support of certifications should be planned in conjunction with all other testing.

  • The PM is responsible for determining what certifications are required, involving the representatives of applicable certifying authorities in the T&E WIPT, and satisfying the certification requirements.
  • The PM will provide the MDA, DOT&E, and the lead OTA with all data on certifications as requested.
  • In accordance with DoDI 8330.01, all program TEMPs must reflect interoperability and supportability requirements, and serve as the basis for interoperability assessments and certifications. The preceding policies are summarized together with associated DOT&E guidance and TEMP outlines at:


Reference Source: DODI 5000.89 Section 6.3


Section 2366 of Title 10, U.S.C. mandates the LFT&E and formal LFT&E reporting for all covered systems, munition programs, missile programs, or covered product improvement programs as determined by the DOT&E. The primary emphasis is on testing vulnerability with respect to potential user casualties and taking into equal consideration the susceptibility to attack and combat performance of the system. The DOT&E will approve LFT&E strategies and LFT&E test plans (including survivability and lethality test plans) for covered systems as defined in Section 2366 of Title 10, U.S.C. LFT&E strategies and test plans may be tailored in accordance with program objectives and selected acquisition strategies. The DOT&E will approve the quantity of test articles procured for all LFT&E test events for any system under LFT&E oversight.

Operational and Live Fire Execution

Reference Source: DODI 5000.89 Section 6.4


The general process for planning, executing, and reporting on operational and live fire test events is shown in Figure 3.

Operational or Major Live Fire Test Event: Planning, Approval, Execution, and Reporting

Figure 3. Operational or Major Live Fire Test Event: Planning, Approval, Execution, and Reporting


Planning Test Events.

  • For all programs under T&E oversight, including accelerated acquisitions, the DOT&E will approve OTPs and LFTPs before the corresponding operational or major live fire test events in accordance with Section 2399, Title 10, U.S.C. and DoDD 5141.02. The DOT&E will approve any LFTP for a major test event, such as full-up system-level test, total ship survivability trial, or full ship shock trials. The major live fire test events will be identified in the TEMP (or LFT&E strategy or equivalent document). An LTO develops test plans for both OT&E and LFT&E.
  • For programs under T&E oversight, the appropriate LTO will brief the DOT&E on T&E concepts for the OTP or the major LFT&E as early as possible and no less than 180 calendar days before the start of any such testing. The DOT&E and DoD Component heads will be kept apprised of changes in test concept and progress on the OTP. The lead OTA will deliver the DoD Component-approved OTP for DOT&E review no later than 60 calendar days before test start. The LTO for major live fire events will deliver the DoD Component-approved LFTP for DOT&E review no later than 90 days before test start. OTPs and major LFTPs will include the plans for data collection and management. To support agile acquisition, the timetables for the test concept and OTP delivery may be tailored with mutual consent between the DOT&E, OTA, and program office; and should be negotiated via the program T&E WIPT.
  • In OT&E, typical users or units will operate and maintain the system or item under conditions simulating combat stress in accordance with Section 139, Title 10, U.S.C., and peacetime conditions, when applicable. The lead OTA, in consultation with the user and the PM, will identify realistic operational scenarios based on the CONOPS and mission threads derived from the joint mission essential task list or DoD Component-specific mission essential task list.
  • Pursuant to Section 2399 of Title 10, U.S.C., persons employed by the contractor for the system being developed may only participate in OT&E of systems under T&E oversight to the extent they are planned to be involved in the operation, maintenance, and other support of the system when deployed in combat.
  • A contractor that has participated (or is participating) in the development, production, or testing of a system for a DoD Component (or for another contractor of the DoD) may not be involved in any way in establishing criteria for data collection, performance assessment, or evaluation activities for OT&E. These limitations do not apply to a contractor that has participated in such development, production, or testing, solely in test or test support on behalf of the DoD.
  • IOT&E for all programs will use production or production-representative test articles that, at a minimum, will incorporate the same parts and software items to be used in LRIP articles. Production-representative systems must meet the following criteria:
    • The hardware must be as defined by the system-level critical design review, functional configuration audit, and system verification review, including correction of appropriate major deficiencies identified during prior testing. Software will be defined based on the implementation to date and the associated product roadmap.
    • For hardware acquisitions, production-representative articles should be assembled using the parts, tools, and manufacturing processes intended for use in FRP; utilize the intended production versions of software; and the operational logistics systems including mature drafts of maintenance manuals intended for use on the fielded system should be in place. The manufacturing processes to be used in FRP should be adhered to as closely as possible, and PMs for programs under T&E oversight will provide the DOT&E a detailed description of any major manufacturing process changes.
    • For software acquisitions, a production-representative system consists of typical users performing operational tasks with the hardware and software intended for deployment, in an operationally realistic computing environment, with representative DoD information network operations and supporting cybersecurity capabilities. All manuals, training, helpdesk, continuity of operations, system upgrades, and other life-cycle system support should be in place.
  • IOT&E will require more than an evaluation that is based exclusively on computer modeling, simulation, or an analysis of system requirements, engineering proposals, design specifications, or any other information contained in program documents in accordance with Sections 2399 and 2366 of Title 10, U.S.C. IOT&E will feature end-to-end testing of system capabilities including all interrelated systems needed to employ and support those capabilities.
  • PMs for all programs (and particularly accelerated acquisitions) may, in coordination with the lead OTA, elect to perform integrated testing in conjunction with training, joint and operational exercises, or synchronized test events. Such testing is efficient, but inherently increases the risk that a significant problem will not be discovered. If no subsequent operational
  • or live fire testing is conducted before initial fielding, then additional testing will typically be required after initial fielding. When additional testing is required, the plan for the T&E and reporting of results will be included in the applicable TEMP or other test strategy documentation.


Conducting Test Events.

  • Test plans must consider the potential effects on personnel and the environment, in accordance with Sections 4321-4347 of Title 42, U.S.C., and Executive Order 12114. The T&E community, working with the PM and the user community, will provide relevant safety documentation (to include formal environment, safety, and occupational health risk acceptance for the test event) to the developmental and operational testers before any test that may affect safety of personnel.
  • Barring significant unforeseen circumstances, all elements of an approved OTP or LFTP must be fully satisfied by the end of an operational or live fire test. If an approved plan cannot be fully executed, DOT&E concurrence with any changes must be obtained before revised test events are executed.
    • Once testing has begun, deviations from approved elements of the test plan cannot be made without consultation with the OTA commander (for OTP), or appropriate LTO (for LFTP), and the concurrence of the DOT&E.
    • DOT&E concurrence is not required when a need to change the execution of an element of the test plan arises in real time as its execution is underway. If DOT&E on-site representatives are not present and the test director concludes changes to the plan are warranted that would revise events yet to be conducted, the test director must contact the relevant DOT&E personnel to obtain concurrence with the proposed changes. If it is not possible to contact DOT&E personnel in a timely manner, the test director can proceed with execution of the revised test event but must inform the DOT&E of the deviations from the test plan as soon as possible.
  • Additions to the approved test plan once the test is in execution will not occur without the concurrence of the OTA commander (for OTP), or appropriate LTO (for LFTP) and the DOT&E representative. Revisions are to be documented and signed by the test director.
  • When the order of execution is identified in the TEMP, or other test strategy documentation, as affecting the analysis of the data, test plans should include details on the order of test event execution and test point data collection.
  • Operating instructions (e.g., tactics, techniques, and procedures; standard operating procedures; technical manuals; technical orders) should be considered for their effect on the test outcomes and included in OTPs when relevant.
  • Test plans must include the criteria to be used to make routine changes (e.g., delays for weather, test halts).
  • If required data for the test completion criteria are lost, corrupted, or not gathered, then the test is not complete unless the DOT&E waives the requirement.


Data Management, Evaluation, and Reporting.

  • The DOT&E, the PM, and their designated representatives who have been properly authorized access, will have full and prompt access to all records, reports, and data, including but not limited to data from tests, system logs, execution logs, test director notes, and user and operator assessments and surveys. Data include, but are not limited to, classified, unclassified, and (when available) competition sensitive or proprietary data. Data may be preliminary and will be identified as such.
  • OTAs and other T&E agencies will record every OT&E and LFT&E event inwriting. Full reports will often contain multiple test events and will be accomplished in the timeliest manner practicable. Interim summaries or catalogues of individual events will be prepared as results become available.
  • Significant problems will be reported promptly by the acquisition decision authority to senior DoD leadership when those problems are identified. OTAs will publish interim test event summaries as interim reports when the test events provide information of immediate importance to the program decision-makers. This will occur particularly in support of accelerated acquisitions and time critical operational needs. Such reports should provide the most complete assessment possible based on the available data and should not be delayed. Such reports will be followed by the planned comprehensive reporting.
  • For T&E and LFT&E oversight programs, the Military Services will keep the DOT&E informed of available program assets, assessments, test results, and anticipated timelines for reporting throughout report preparation.

Live Fire Test & Evaluation (LFT&E) Guidance

Reference Source: DAG CH 8-4.3.3 Live Fire Test & Evaluation

Live Fire Test and Evaluation (LFT&E) encompasses testing and evaluation over the course of a program, beginning with component-level testing during the initial design stage. T&E continues as the system matures from assemblies to subsystems, and finally to a full-up, system-level configuration. At the full-up, system-level, the weapon system is fully equipped for combat with all subsystems operational and powered. Early identification of deficiencies through LFT&E allows time to impact design trades and make design changes before finalizing production configurations, thereby reducing costs. Survivability and lethality testing conducted under the auspices of the LFT&E program generate information that directly supports the DOT&E mission of evaluating the operational effectiveness, operational suitability, and survivability (including cybersecurity) or lethality of major defense acquisition programs.

The test organization responsible for LFT&E events prepares a detailed test plan. The DoD Component and the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) approve TEMPs, operational test plans, and live fire test plans. For programs under DOT&E oversight, the DOT&E provides the MDA with LFT&E assessments.

Reference Source: DAG CH 8-3.2.5 Live Fire Test & Evaluation

PMs plan and execute an LFT&E program if DOT&E designates their program for LFT&E oversight. LFT&E program objectives provide a timely evaluation of the vulnerability/lethality of a system as it progresses through design and development prior to full-rate production. In particular, LFT&E programs:

  • Provide information to decision-makers on potential user casualties, vulnerabilities, and lethality, taking into equal consideration susceptibility to attack and combat performance of the system.
  • Ensure testing of the system under realistic combat conditions includes knowledge of user casualties and system vulnerabilities or lethality.
  • Allow for correction in design or employment of any design deficiency identified by T&E before proceeding beyond LRIP.
  • Assess recoverability from battle damage and battle damage repair capabilities and issues.

The PM includes planning factors in the structure and schedule for the LFT&E Strategy to accommodate and incorporate any design changes resulting from testing and analysis before proceeding beyond LRIP.

Covered Systems

A covered system defines a system that DOT&E, acting for the SecDef, designates for LFT&E oversight. These systems include, but are not limited to, the following categories:

  • Any major system within the meaning of that term in 10 USC 2302 (Para 5), including user-occupied systems, and designed to provide some degree of protection to its occupants in combat.
  • A conventional munitions program or missile program; or a conventional munitions program planning to acquire more than 1,000,000 rounds (regardless of major system status).
  • A modification to a covered system likely to significantly affect the survivability or lethality of such a system.

Early Live Fire Test & Evaluation

Conducting LFT&E events early in a program’s life cycle allows time to correct any design deficiency demonstrated by T&E when impacts to program costs and schedule are least. Where appropriate, the PM may correct the design or recommend adjusting the employment of the covered system before proceeding beyond LRIP. LFT&E typically includes testing at the component, subassembly, and subsystem level; and may also draw upon design analyses, modeling and simulation, combat data, and related sources such as analyses of safety and mishap data. As a standard practice, this occurs regardless of whether the LFT&E program culminates with Full-Up, System-Level (FUSL) testing or not.

Full-Up, System-Level Testing

10 USC 2366 (Para b) defines Full-Up, System-Level Testing as testing that fully satisfies the statutory requirement for “realistic survivability” or “realistic lethality testing.” The criteria for FUSL testing differ somewhat based on the type of testing: survivability, operational security, or lethality. The following are types of FUSL testing:

  • Vulnerability testing is conducted using munitions likely to be encountered in combat on a complete system loaded or equipped with all the dangerous materials that normally would be on board in combat (including flammables and explosives), and with all critical subsystems operating that could make a difference in determining the test outcome.
  • Lethality testing of production-representative munitions or missiles, for which the target is representative of the class of systems that includes the threat; and the target and test conditions are sufficiently realistic to demonstrate the lethality effects the weapon is designed to produce.

Full-Up, System-Level Testing Waiver Process

In accordance with 10 USC 2366 (Para c), an LFT&E program includes FUSL testing unless granted a waiver. When required, a waiver package is submitted to the appropriate congressional defense committees prior to Milestone B; or, in the case of a system or program initiated at Milestone B, as soon as practicable after Milestone B; or, if initiated at Milestone C, as soon as practicable after Milestone C. Typically, this occurs at the time of TEMP approval.

The waiver package includes certification by the Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE) to Congress that FUSL testing would prove unreasonably expensive and impractical. It also includes a DOT&E-approved alternative plan for conducting LFT&E in the absence of FUSL testing. Typically, the alternative plan reflects the LFT&E strategy in the TEMP. This alternative plan includes LFT&E of components, subassemblies, or subsystems and, as appropriate, additional design analyses, modeling and simulation, and combat data analyses.

Personnel Survivability

LFT&E has a statutory requirement to address personnel survivability (i.e., force protection) for covered systems as part of “realistic survivability testing.” In 10 USC 2366 (Para e(3)), the term realistic survivability testing means “testing for vulnerability of the system in combat by firing munitions likely to be encountered in combat (or munitions with a capability similar to such munitions” at the system configured for combat. The primary emphasis is on testing vulnerability with respect to potential user casualties and taking into equal consideration the system’s susceptibility to attack as well as the combat performance of the system. Personnel survivability should be addressed through dedicated measures of evaluation, such as “expected casualties” supported by specific details on the type and severity of injury, as well as the potential operational impact of such casualties on the ability of the platform to accomplish its mission after a threat engagement, when appropriate. Personnel survivability must also be addressed even in cases where the platform cannot survive.