Major Capability Acquisition (MCA)

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Physical Configuration Audit

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Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.8 Physical Configuration Audit

The Physical Configuration Audit (PCA) is a formal examination of the “as-built” configuration of the system or a configuration item against its technical documentation to establish or verify its product baseline. The objective of the PCA is to resolve any discrepancies between the production-representative item that has successfully passed Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) and the associated documentation currently under configuration control. A successful PCA provides the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) with evidence that the product design is stable, the capability meets end-user needs and production risks are acceptably low. At the conclusion of the PCA, the final product baseline is established and all subsequent changes are processed by formal engineering change action. Further information can be found in MIL-HDBK-61 (Configuration Management Guidance).

The PCA is an event-driven technical assessment that typically occurs during the Production and Deployment (P&D) phase, after successful system validation but prior to the Full-Rate Production Decision Review (FRP DR). A PCA conducted during FRP may miss the opportunity to avoid costly defects built into production. While the system-level PCA typically occurs before the FRP DR, other system element PCAs may be conducted at various points in advance of the system-level PCA.

A properly conducted and documented PCA provides a major knowledge point in preparation for investment decisions at FRP DR. The PCA confirms:

  • Any testing deficiencies have been resolved and appropriate changes implemented; changes to the product baseline have been incorporated into current design documentation.
  • All production-related activities (tooling, acceptance/inspection equipment, instructions, molds, jigs and make-buy decisions) are focused on a validated and accurate design.
  • Any system elements that were affected/redesigned after the completion of the Functional Configuration Audit (FCA) also meet contract requirements.
  • All hardware CIs and software CIs are accurately represented by their product baseline information.
  • The manufacturing processes, quality control system, measurement and test equipment and training are adequately planned, tracked, and controlled.

Roles and Responsibilities

Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.8 Physical Configuration Audit

The unique Program Manager (PM) responsibilities associated with a system PCA include:

  • Determining the scope of the PCA, including which specific system elements will be audited and to what depth and any associated risk.
  • Approving, funding and staffing the PCA as planned in the Systems Engineering Plan (SEP) developed by the Systems Engineer.
  • Establishing the plan to FRP DR in applicable contract documents, including the SE Management Plan (SEMP), Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) and Integrated Master Plan (IMP).
  • Ensuring the plan includes subject matter experts to participate in each review.
  • Determining if the readiness of manufacturing processes, quality management system and production planning (i.e., facilities, tooling and test equipment capacity, personnel development and certification, process documentation, inventory management, supplier management, etc.) provide low-risk assurances for supporting FRP.
  • Continuing to control appropriate changes to the product baseline (see CH 3–4.1.6. Configuration Management Process).

The unique Systems Engineer responsibilities associated with a system PCA include:

  • Developing and executing the PCA plans with established quantifiable review criteria, carefully tailored to satisfy program objectives.
  • Coordinating with configuration management and manufacturing SMEs and the production contractor/production facility to develop an efficient approach to the PCA.
  • Identifying method(s) of examining the production-representative item (e.g., disassembly, inspection and reassembly) and verifying the item against related design documentation.
  • Ensuring the pre-established review criteria have been met to make sure the production capability forms a satisfactory, affordable and sustainable basis for proceeding with FRP.
  • Ensuring that for software CIs a detailed audit of design documentation, listings and operations and support documents is completed.
  • Advising the PM on whether production capability forms a satisfactory, affordable and sustainable basis for proceeding into FRP.
  • Ensuring adequate plans and resources are in place to get from PCA to Full Operational Capability (FOC).
  • Ensuring plans to get to FOC allow for contingencies.
  • Ensuring production implementation supports overall performance and maintainability requirements.
  • Ensuring Technical Data Packages (TDP) have been transferred to the government in accordance with the contract.
  • Monitoring and controlling the execution of the PCA closure plans.
  • Identifying risks associated with meeting program objectives, given the proposed PCA plans.

When the program does not plan to control the detailed design or purchase the item’s technical data, the developer should conduct an internal PCA to define the starting point for controlling the detailed design of the item and establishing a product baseline.

Inputs and Outputs

Reference Source: DAG CH 3-3.3.8 Physical Configuration Audit

The PCA criteria are developed to best support the program’s technical scope and risk and are documented in the program’s SEP no later than Milestone C. The PCA is conducted when these criteria are considered to be met.

Table 35 identifies the products and associated review criteria normally seen as part of the PCA. The Chief Engineer should review this table and tailor the criteria for the program. The system-level PCA review should not begin until the criteria, identified by the Chief Engineer and documented in the SEP, are met and any prior technical reviews are complete and their action items closed. IEEE 15288.2 “Standard for Technical Reviews and Audits on Defense Programs” can be used as a resource for audit preparation. This is a best practice audit.

Table 35: PCA Products and Criteria


PRR Criteria

Product Baseline Documentation
  • Assessment that the product baseline is complete and accurately reflects the configuration of the representative production item that was inspected and validated through OT&E
Risk Assessment
  • Risks are identified and documented at levels low enough to continue with full-rate production and deployment
Technical Plans
  • A detailed plan and schedule are established and sufficiently resourced to proceed with full-rate production and deployment

Outputs and Products

The Technical Review Chair determines when the review is complete. The primary output of the PCA is a verified product baseline that accurately reflects the validated system and supports a favorable FRP DR.