Major Capability Acquisition (MCA)
How to use this site
Each page in this pathway presents a wealth of curated knowledge from acquisition policies, guides, templates, training, reports, websites, case studies, and other resources. It also provides a framework for functional experts and practitioners across DoD to contribute to the collective knowledge base. This site aggregates official DoD policies, guides, references, and more.
DoD and Service policy is indicated by a BLUE vertical line.
Directly quoted material is preceeded with a link to the Reference Source.
This page covers a wide-array of program management activities not covered elsewhere in the acquisition model.
Program Office Structure and Organizations
Reference Source: DODI 5000.85 3.C.2
Program Office Structure
It is a program manager’s responsibility to fully understand the skills and capacity required for successful program execution and for the CAE to provide those skills to ensure that programs execute successfully. Program offices will be established prior to Milestone A or earlier as necessary. Program offices for MDAPs will be staffed in key leadership positions with military or DoD civilian employees qualified in accordance with DoDI 5000.66. Key leadership positions include the PM and deputy PM, and the other positions identified in DoDI 5000.66.
Joint Program Office (JPO) Organization.
A joint program office will be established when a defense acquisition program involves the satisfaction of validated capability requirements from multiple DoD Components or international partners, and is funded by more than one DoD Component or partner during any phase of the acquisition process In joint programs, a lead Component will be designated to manage the acquisition process and act as the acquisition agent for the participating DoD Components. The participating DoD Components (i.e., those with a requirement for the program’s products) support and participate with the lead DoD Component in managing the acquisition process.
Joint programs will be managed in accordance with the provisions of a memorandum of agreement and with the lead DoD Component’s acquisition procedures and acquisition chain of command, unless directed otherwise by the DAE.
DoD Components will neither terminate nor substantially reduce participation in joint MDAPs without capability requirements validation authority review and DAE approval. The DAE may require a DoD Component to continue some or all funding, as necessary, to sustain the joint program in an efficient manner, despite approving a request to terminate or reduce participation. Memorandums of agreement between DoD Components should address termination or reduced participation by any parties to the agreement. Substantial reduction will be determined by the MDA in coordination with the requirements validation authority, and is defined as a funding or quantity decrease that impacts the viability of the program or significantly increases the costs to the other participants in the program.
Program Baseline Development and Management
Reference Source: DODI 5000.85 3C.3.b
The APB documents the program cost, schedule, and performance baselines, and is the fundamental binding agreement between the MDA, the CAE if applicable, the PEO, and the PM. The PM is responsible for developing the APB. KPPs from the validated CDD are listed, verbatim, in the APB. The APB serves as the basis for reporting to the MDA through the DoD management information system.
Risk, Issue, and Opportunity Management
Reference Source: DODI 5000.85 Section 3C.3.d
PMs are responsible for prioritizing programmatic risks and mitigating them within program constraints. Most of program management is about the process of eliminating programmatic risk over the life of the program. Formal risk management is one tool to accomplish that objective. Top program risks and associated risk mitigation plans will be detailed in the program acquisition strategy and presented at all relevant decision points and milestones. The PM will consider the risk management techniques outlined in Paragraphs 3C.3.d.(1)(a) through (l):
- Prototyping at the system, subsystem, or component level; and competitive prototyping, where appropriate.
- Modeling and simulation, to include the need for development of any new modeling and simulation tools to support a comprehensive risk management and mitigation approach.
- Technology demonstrations and decision points to discipline the insertion of planned technologies into programs or the selection of alternative technologies provide additional discussions of technical management activities.
- Intelligence analyses, data dependencies, and threat projections.
- Multiple design approaches.
- Alternative designs, including designs that meet requirements but with reduced performance.
- Phasing program activities or related technology development efforts to address high-risk areas early.
- Industrial base availability and capabilities (further discussed in Paragraph 3C.5.).
- Analysis or detailed identification of sub-tiers in the prime contractor supply chain.
- Independent risk assessments by outside subject matter experts.
- Providing schedule and funding margins for identified risks.
The PM is responsible for integrating ESOH considerations into the decision-making process.
- Prior to exposing people, equipment, or the environment to known system-related hazards, PMs are responsible for documenting the associated risks and for ensuring that ESOH risks have been accepted by the following acceptance authorities: the CAE for high risks, PEO level for serious risks, and the PM for medium and low risks. User-representative approval is required prior to high and serious risk acceptance. For joint programs, the ESOH risk acceptance authorities reside within the lead DoD Component.
- The PM will manage schedule and cost risks associated with statutory requirements in PL 91-190 and Executive Order 12114, and other statutes and regulations as applicable, to assure timely production, testing and fielding events. The PM will manage program risks from compliance with other ESOH requirements, such as hazardous materials regulations, impacting system performance and readiness, including those impacting international acquisition and exportability. Paragraphs 3D.2.b.(5)(a) and 3D.3.c.(6) provide additional information.
Reference Source: DODI 5000.88 Section 3.4.f
The LSE will advise the PM on major technical risks, issues, opportunities, and mitigation planning and implementation and document them in the SEP. The PM will:
- Integrate risk, issue, and opportunity management planning and execution in accordance with the Department of Defense Risk, Issue, and Opportunity Management Guide for Defense Acquisition Programs.
- Establish a process that considers risks across the entire life-cycle and not be constrained to the current phase.
Risk management plans will address risk identification, analysis, mitigation planning, mitigation implementation, and tracking. Technical risks and issues will be reflected in the program’s IMP and IMS.
Opportunity management will identify potential opportunities to include technology development that could have a positive impact on providing better value in performance, improved mission capability, and reduced cost and schedule.
Reference Source: DoD Risk, Issue, and Opportunity (RIO) Management Guide for Defense Acquisition Programs,
DASD/SE, Jan 2017, Section 2.1.1
The most important decisions to control risk are made early in a program life cycle. PMs and teams must understand the capabilities under development and perform a detailed analysis to identify the key risks. During the early phases, the program works with the requirements community to help shape the product concept and requirements. Once the concept and requirements are in place, the team determines the basic program structure, the acquisition strategy, and what acquisition phase to enter based on the type and level of key risks. Risk steers planning and tailoring.
If technology maturity or requirements stability risks exist, the PM should structure a program to enter the life cycle at Milestone A. For example, if there is some doubt as to whether the program can achieve the requirements, the PM should consider a risk reduction phase with competitors building and testing prototypes in order to validate achievability of the requirements. Programs also may use prototypes to quantify the impact of technology on performance, demonstrate the ability to integrate new technologies into mature architectures, and to reduce risk and cost.
If the technologies are mature, the integration of components is at acceptable risk, and the requirements are stable and achievable, the PM can consider entering directly at Milestone B to begin Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD).
If a materiel solution already exists and requires only military modification or orientation, the PM can structure the program enter at Milestone C with a small research and development (R&D) effort to militarize the product.
Statute requires PMs to document a comprehensive approach for managing and mitigating risk (including technical, cost, and schedule risk) in the Acquisition Strategy. Likewise, DoD policy requires programs to summarize the top program risks and associated risk mitigation plans in the Acquisition Strategy. Policy also requires programs to describe their technical approach, including key technical risks, and management and execution of risk mitigation activities, in the Systems Engineering Plan (SEP).
See the DoD RIO Guide for additional details on risk and issue management.
Phase specific content from the RIO guide can also be found on the phase pages.
Earned Value Management (EVM)
Reference Source: DODI 5000.85 Section 3C.3.c.3
EVM is one of DoD’s and industry’s most powerful program planning and management tools. It is normally used in conjunction with cost plus and fixed-price incentive contracts with discrete work scope. The purpose of EVM is to ensure sound planning and resourcing of all tasks required for contract performance. It promotes an environment where contract execution data is shared between project personnel and government oversight staff and in which emerging problems are identified, pinpointed, and acted upon as early as possible. EVM provides a disciplined, structured, objective, and quantitative method to integrate technical work scope, cost, and schedule objectives into a single cohesive contract baseline plan called a performance measurement baseline for tracking contract performance. Tables accessible at https://www.dau.edu/mdid/Pages/Default.aspx summarize EVM applicability and reporting requirements.
Reference Source: DODI 5000.85 Section 3C.6
PMs must comply with the records management requirements of Chapter 31 of Title 44, U.S.C. (also known as “the Federal Records Act of 1950, as amended) and DoDI 5015.02 for the information created, collected, and retained in the form of electronic records. DoDI 5000.82 provides additional guidance on records management for programs containing information technology.
Program Battle Rhythm
Reference Source: DAG CH 1-188.8.131.52. Program Battle Rhythm
As for setting a battle rhythm, the key is to remember PMs are what they do—what is on the calendar. To set a good battle rhythm, routinely review the calendar to see where time is being spent. The tyranny of today’s challenges can easily distract a PM’s focus from fulfilling leadership responsibilities/roles. Every PM can commit to a daily routine of reviewing their calendar and recognizing how much of their time is committed to Leadership 101. An example battle rhythm is depicted in Table 3.
As the program leader, the PM, along with the other key leaders on the program, sets a rhythm along with a culture that empowers the PMO team. One thing the PM may want to consider is how the battle rhythm addresses or compensates for real or perceived personal or PMO challenges. As appropriate, given IPT dynamics, daily and weekly assessments help maintain an overall program execution status. This information flows into part of the overall daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly program reporting process cycle.
Most PMO work activity is event-driven and outlined as tasks in the IMS to be accomplished in a sequence. Some work activity, especially management efforts such as cost, schedule, and risk management are cyclical. The event-driven and cyclical activiites are planned into a battle rhythm that aligns with the major events for management of the program as outlined in the program IMP. It is critical that both technical and management tasks are tracked within the IMS. PMO team activities such as contracting actions and budget execution activities are tracked in the same schedule as the technical work, thus allowing for a complete picture for the program team on work that needs to be accomplished.
Establishing a realistic and executable battle rhythm enables the PM and PMO team to manage the work detailed in the program schedule (IMS) and to identify changes to the IMS when appropriate. The Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) may not change, but the details to reach that baseline will likely need to be adjusted as the program progresses.
Leading that effort with a realistic battle rhythm that allows for adjustments gives the team confidence to meet program execution challenges and grow in skill and ability. The PM-established and -led battle rhythm provides a higher probability of delivering a system that meets requirements within established cost and schedule.
Integrated Acquisition Planning and Execution
Reference Source: DAG CH 1-3.4 Integrated Acquisition Planning and Execution
As a solid understanding of requirements, both explicit and implicit, and realistic funding profile are necessary at the initiation of an acquisition, so also is a reasonable and realistic plan and schedule of work. Sound schedules merge with cost and technical data to influence program management decisions and actions. Robust schedules used in a disciplined manner help stakeholders make key go-ahead decisions, track and assess past performance, and predict future performance and costs. Proven and effective tools for planning, scheduling, and execution of work are the Integrated Master Plan (IMP) and Integrated Master Schedule (IMS). PMO realization of an IMP/IMS at the program level depends upon the development and integration of IMP and IMS inputs from all functional areas. This development and integration cannot happen on its own. Leadership example and active use of the tools are required. The IMP and IMS:
- Are management tools that enhance the management of acquisition, modification, and sustainment programs?
- Provide a systematic approach to program planning, scheduling, and execution.
- Are equally applicable to competitive and sole-source procurements with industry, as well as to government in-house efforts.
- Improve day-to day program execution and facilitate ongoing insight into program status by both government PMO personnel and contractor personnel.
- Help develop and support “what if” exercises, and identify and assess candidate problem workarounds.
The IMP documents the significant criteria necessary to complete the accomplishments, and ties each to a key program event. The IMS expands on the IMP with an integrated network of tasks, sub-tasks, activities, schedule for deliverables, and milestones with sufficient logic and duration. It answers the question, “How will we do this and when will we be done?” The IMS also serves as a tool for time-phasing work and assessing technical performance. IMS activities are thus traceable to the IMP and the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and allow integrated assessments of cost, schedule, technical performance, and associated risks.
To assist the PM and the PMO team, refer to the IMS “Cheat Sheet” for additional information.
Reference Source: DAG CH 1-3.4.1 Program Schedule
The PM working with the PMO team should develop a high-level Program Schedule in conjunction with the IMP/IMS development activities. This high-level Schedule along with the IMP/IMS will drive, and be driven by, the development of the program Acquisition Strategy. Additionally, this high-level Program Schedule is not the same as the IMS, but they must be fully aligned. The high-level Program Schedule maybe referred to as a “Program Roadmap” The high-level Program Schedule would provide a detailed graphic illustrating program milestones, phases, and events; it is usually a Power Point chart format. Depicted events and milestones will vary by program, but will minimally include key acquisition decision points; principal systems engineering and logistics activities such as technical reviews and assessments; planned contracting actions such as request for proposal (RFP) release, source selection activity, and contract awards; production events and deliveries; and key test activities. (Figure 11 is a notional depiction of the expected level of detail. For example, contract details will vary with the contracting approach and the plan for competition and multiple suppliers; the use of options, re-competes, and/or new negotiated sole source; etc.)
Figure 11: Notional Depiction of the Program Schedule
Program Management Office IMP/IMS
Reference Source: DAG CH 1-3.4.2 Program Management Office IMP/IMS
Each program has a high-level Program Schedule along with an Integrated Master Plan (IMP) and Integrated Master Schedule (IMS), and requires the same from its contractor(s). The IMP and IMS communicate the program execution expectations of the program team and provide traceability to the management and execution of the program by IPTs. The government program schedule should incorporate the contractor(s) schedule in the same manner the program WBS incorporates the contractor(s) WBS. This will also provide traceability to the program WBS, the Contract WBS (CWBS), the Statement of Work (SOW), and risk management, which together define the products and key processes associated with program execution. A best practice may be to provide the government IMP, along with other government planning documents (Program WBS, Systems Engineering Plan [SEP], Program Protection Plan [PPP], etc.) as a part of the RFP.
The IMP is an event-based plan consisting of a hierarchy of program events tailored and scaled according to the size, content, maturity, and risk of the program. It consists of three main elements: Program Events, Significant Accomplishments, and Accomplishment Criteria.
Program Events are decision and/or assessment points that occur at the culmination of significant program activities. Typical examples might be major milestone reviews (such as a Milestone B), technical reviews (System Requirements Review [SRR], Preliminary Design Review [PDR], Critical Design Review [CDR], etc.), and program reviews (such as an Integrated Baseline Review [IBR]).
Significant Accomplishments are typically entry and/or exit criteria relative to the program event. For example, want/desire requirements analysis to be “completed”—among other things—in order to claim credit for a successful PDR.
Accomplishment Criteria describe the specific conditions necessary to claim full credit for a significant accomplishment. In this case, requirements analysis is “completed” at this PDR when the requirements analysis for element A, element B, and element C are all completed.
Construction in this fashion enables the IMP to reflect how program leaders characterize and make decisions about their programs. In addition, accomplishment criteria can be directly associated with specific WBS elements, IPT leader, SOW paragraphs, Contract Data Requirements Lists (CDRLs), or Risks and Opportunities. This facilitates very robust traceability as depicted in Table 7. The government PMO and contractor can each employ IMPs.
The IMP and the program WBS then are used to develop the program IMS.
The PM and the PMO team determine an appropriate level of detail for the IMS. For the IMS, what level of detail is needed? In general, the IMS should go at least one level lower than the detail outlined in the WBS. Over time that detail is expanded as the program is further defined.
- Proposal. Include enough detail to allow for program documentation, such as cost estimates, SEP, TEMP, etc., can be linked together through the Integrated Master Schedule (IMS). Provide enough detail to convince the reviewers that the problem is understood and an executable solution is in place that takes anticipated risk and opportunities into consideration. Conduct a macro-level program schedule risk analysis with input from the overall IMS, thus allowing the program team to understand the impacts risk/opportunities will have on the schedule.
- Execution. Include lower level detail for all tasks as the required details for execution. This can be done in a “rolling wave” manner; thus, later tasks become more detailed and clearer through execution of early tasks. The program execution schedule should be supplemented by the contractor’s schedule. The two schedules are linked together through the program WBS, as the contract WBS is a subset of the program WBS.
Ultimately, the IMP and IMS represent the plan and schedules for satisfying the capability need. The IMP and IMS then allow for continuous program assessments of the program status. Therefore, the PMO team can greatly enable future program execution through the effective layout of the program IMP and IMS. The IMP and IMS help the PM and PMO team:
- Identify a baseline for program monitoring, reporting, and control.
- Plan, execute, and track risk and opportunity efforts.
- Support resource analysis and leveling, exploration of alternatives, and cost/schedule trade-off studies.
- Provide a roadmap for stakeholders.
- Enable effective communication within the government team and with the developer(s).
Reference Source: DAG CH 1-3.4.3 IMP/IMS Development
The Key Leaders provide inputs to the program Integrated Master Plan/Integrated Master schedule (IMP/IMS). The team can use the IMP/IMS to integrate processes and products, and provide an auditable sequence of tasks and events that can be used to measure technical progress. A resource-loaded schedule can also be used to measure cost performance, as is done within Earned Value. Program management can consider how cost and technical performance tracking are integrated with the schedule. The riskier the program, the more value an integrated performance measurement approach will be. The development and analysis of program IMP/IMS data:
- Permit assessments of the developer’s activities, efforts, and products.
- Contribute to a better understanding of the technical basis of cost and schedule variances.
- Provide a framework for developing corrective actions.
The PMO IMP is an event-driven government document that provides a framework against which all work is measured. It includes functional, focused activities necessary to successfully deliver the desired capability. It aids in defining and documenting tasks required to define, develop, and deliver a system, and facilitates operation and support of that system throughout its life cycle. The format usually reflects an Event-Accomplishment-Criteria hierarchical structure for program tracking and execution.
The IMS is an integrated, networked model containing all the detailed discrete tasks necessary to realize the IMP accomplishment criteria. The IMS is directly traceable to the IMP and the program WBS, and includes all the elements associated with development, production, modification, and delivery of the total product or program level plan. The result is a fully networked dynamic model that supports engaged leadership decision-making. There are two types of schedules:
- Government Integrated Master Schedule (IMS). This IMS is used to manage the program on a daily basis from the Materiel Development Decision (MDD) through disposal. This IMS tracks all government activities at a level appropriate for both management of the tasks as well as leadership decision-making. Note that the government work is scheduled to the same level as the contractors’ work, thus allowing for a common approach across all IPTs. The government IMS draws status and forecasting information from contractor IMS, as required to maintain program situational awareness.
- Contractor IMS. This IMS is used to manage the contract on a daily basis from contract award through contract completion. This IMS tracks all contractor activities at a level appropriate for leadership decision-making, but also in a manner that accounts for all contract scope. This typically results in a “tiered” and linked IMS structure from program level down to detailed level. This IMS is typically anchored in the WBS and is resource-loaded. A best practice is to update the IMS on a regular basis as part of a monthly Contractor CDRL.
The IMS focuses on the product and relationship of the tasks/efforts required to execute the program. It is resource-loaded and includes margin for risk mitigation. The IMS supplements the IMP, but it can be WBS-based or event-based. Either way, all of the tasks are mapped to a WBS element. When the IMP (Events-Accomplishments-Criteria) dictate the structure of the IMS, then the CWBS is integrated into this framework as a referenced substructure. When the CWBS dictates the structure on the IMS, then the IMP Criteria are integrated into this framework as a referenced substructure. It is important to keep this in mind when defining these items in order to arrive at a product that clearly articulates the PM’s intentions and is useable as a tool for managing the program.
The IMS describes the work required to complete the effort in sufficient detail to fully demonstrate understanding of the scope and flow of the work. It enables the PM to better understand the links and relationships among the various activities and the resources supporting them.
The first, best opportunity to explore in detail the relationship among cost, schedule, and technical risk is through close-up assessment of the IMP and IMS at an Integrated Baseline Review (IBR). IBRs examine the baseline as a means to assess risk and opportunity, and thus do not require Earned Value Management (EVM). They are simply a best practice approach. To assist the PM and the PMO team, refer to the IBR “Cheat Sheet” for additional information.
The PM and PMO team monitor development of the IMS by the contractor/developer to ensure that activity durations and resources are reasonable. However, monitoring is not management. The analysis and predictions include the impacts of the risk. If any mitigation works, the schedule moves left. The IMS also includes opportunities and the actions associated with their pursuit. This oversight aids risk and opportunity analysis, and the development of mitigation/pursuit plans.
Early identification of, and adherence to, critical path tasks are essential to ensure that the program remains on track toward achieving schedule and cost goals. The IMS provides linkages between tasks to capture the relationship of predecessor and successor tasks required to initiate or complete major tasks.
Lastly, remember the IMS is a living document that is continuously updated to reflect the progress of the program or project.
Three sources of comprehensive information on developing and using IMPs and IMSs are:
- NDIA, Planning & Scheduling Excellence Guide (PASEG)
- GAO Scheduling Assessment Guide
- PM Community of Practice
Functional Integrated Master Plan/Integrated Master Schedule Inputs
Reference Source: DAG CH 1-3.4.3 Functional Integrated Master Plan/ Integrated Master Schedule Inputs
Accepting that detailed planning is a requirement for an acquisition program by both government and industry, the Integrated Master Plan/Integrated Master Schedule (IMP/IMS) construct should be used not just by the contractor, but also by the government PMO. Thorough planning in accordance with statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements at both the functional and program level is an ongoing necessity. As changes related to external and internal factors occur, they need to be accommodated in an integrated program plan, which is also represented in the program IMS. The use of a PMO IMP and IMS for daily, weekly, and monthly management of the acquisition at all levels, not just the prime Contractor(s), is both appropriate and effective.
The following seven figures (Figures 11 through 17) depict typical, but definitely not all-inclusive samples of Activities, Documentation, and Reviews by acquisition functional area and acquisition phase that, as applicable to the program, are considered in functional inputs to the PMO IMP/IMS. The graphics present higher level activities and events for which accomplishments and criteria would need to be agreed upon as the IMP is developed. IMPs for other ACAT and/or Acquisition Model programs would have similar activities and events tailored to the size and type of the acquisition being planned. The functional IMP inputs are also supported by functional IMS inputs, as the PMO IMP is implemented by a PMO IMS. Development and utilization of IMPs and IMSs are intensive activities, but they provide PMs and functional leaders with necessary visibility into program execution to manage the acquisition.