Urgent Capability Acquisition

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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.

Q: Who may submit a Joint Urgent or Emergent Operational Need?

A: A Joint Urgent or Emergent can be submitted by anyone, but must be certified by the first general officer, flag officer or SES, in the chain of command who approves the urgency of the need and forwards it to the Combatant Command (CCMD) for processing. The combatant command, if approved, forwards the urgent need to Joint Staff for validation and then to the JRAC for assignment of a solution sponsor(s).

While JUONs and JEONs are primarily submitted by the Combatant Commands (CCMDs), the Chairman or Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS/VCJCS) may generate a JUON or JEON directly in support of CJCS or VCJCS responsibilities, or to facilitate timely validation of urgent or emergent needs identified by multiple CCMDs or DoD Components.

Q: How do you submit a request for an urgent need solution? Example?

The Services have their own processes and forms on which to submit urgent needs. In the JCIDS manual, Joint Staff has an example (shown below)  that provides what information they need to validate a JUON or JEON. It is a relatively brief format that asks a series of pertinent questions. The submitter’s answers will assist the requirements and acquisition communities in understanding the threat and begin identifying solutions.


JUON/JEON Format as shown in JCIDS manual and presented in a DAU briefing on the UCA pathway

Q: Who pays for an urgent need?

A. There are no “year of execution funds” available to fund urgent requirements.

The solution sponsor(s) pays for procurement and sustainment of an urgent need solution. They must do so by taking funds from lower priority efforts. The vehicles for providing funding in support of a UON solution:

 (1) A Below-Threshold Reprogramming action done internally by the Solution Sponsor’s Component.

(2) An Above-Threshold Reprogramming action. This is begun by the Solution Sponsor but must be approved by all four Defense Committees.

(3) A Rapid Acquisition Authority (RAA) These are approved by the DepSecDef or SecDef; however, Congress is also notified of the actions.

Q: What is “Rapid Acquisition Authority” (RAA)?

A: RAA is one of several processes that can expedite DoD rapid acquisitions. It is important to recognize that RAA is authority and not funding. The solution sponsor still has to identify funding to support a UON solution. RAA allows for the waiver of certain acquisition requirements. It also authorizes DoD to use funds for certain higher priority requirements without undertaking a reprogramming action or with use of a transfer authority. This saves considerable time.

There are four categories of RAA:

(1) Urgent needs to eliminate a documented deficiency that has resulted in combat casualties or is likely to result in combat casualties. (Notification of the defense committees and HAC and SAC defense subcommittees, by letter, 15 calendar days after the SecDef or DepSecDef sign the determination.)

(2) Urgent needs to eliminate a documented deficiency that impacts an ongoing or anticipated contingency operation and that, if left unfulfilled, could potentially result in loss of life or critical mission failure. (Notification of the defense committees and HAC and SAC defense subcommittees, by letter, 10 calendar days before the date on which the SecDef or DepSecDef signed determination is effective.)

(3) Urgent needs necessary to eliminate a deficiency caused by a cyber attack resulting in critical mission failure, the loss of life, property destruction, or economic effects, or if left unfilled is likely to result in critical mission failure, the loss of life, property destruction, or economic effects.   (Notification to the defense committees and HAC and SAC defense subcommittees, by letter, 15 calendar days after SecDef or DepSecDef signs the determination.)

(4) Compelling national security needs requiring the immediate initiation of a project under the rapid fielding or rapid prototyping acquisition pathways in accordance with Section 804 of Public Law 114-92, as amended.

Q: What tools and authorities exist to expedite an urgent need procurement?

A: There are a number of tools to expedite resolution of urgent needs:

(1) Urgent and Compelling requirements are exempted from the Competition in Contracting Act.   This allows the contracting officer to expedite the procurement, when appropriate, with a sole source award rather than go through the considerably longer competition process of the deliberate acquisition system.

(2) Letter contracts can also be used. A letter contract, also known as Undefinitized Contract Action (UCA), is a means to authorize a contractor to immediately begin delivering supplies or performing services before the terms and conditions of the contract can be agreed upon. This strategy is used only when negotiating a definitive contract is not possible in sufficient time to meet the urgent requirement, and the Government’s interest demands that the Contractor start immediately.

(3) Rapid Acquisition Authority – This is authority, not funding, granted by the Congress to the SecDef / DepSecDef to expedite urgent requirements.

  • RAA should be considered when, within certain limitations, a waiver of a law, policy, directive, or regulation will greatly accelerate the delivery of effective capability to the warfighter.
  • RAA authorizes DoD to use funds for certain higher priority requirements without undertaking a reprogramming action or with use of a transfer authority. DoD Manual 5000.78 provides instructions on submitting RAA requests

(4) Progress on resolving JUONs and JEONs also receives Senior leader visibility in the Warfighter Senior Integration Group meetings that meet regularly in support of current contingency operations. This ensures that these requirements get the attention they deserve.

(Notification to the defense committees and HAC and SAC defense subcommittees, by letter, 15 calendar days after the SecDef or DepSecDef signs the determination.)

Q: Does the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC) pay for an urgent operational need if it is procured under the Rapid Acquisition Authority (RAA)?

A: No, like any other urgent requirement, the solution sponsor(s) must fund procurement and sustainment of Rapid Acquisition Authority actions.   RAA is authority and not funding.

Q: Does the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell process bypass the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) process?

A: Urgent needs are part of the JCIDS process and are discussed in CJCSI 5123.01H dated 31 August 2018, and the accompanying JCIDS manual of the same date. Joint Urgent Operational Needs (JUONs) and Joint Emergent Operational Needs (JEONs), should be worked through the appropriate combatant command, or agency process for urgent operational needs. Once the solution is provided to the warfighter, then a follow-up assessment of operational utility is required to comply with the JCIDS process requirements for its sustainment.

Q: Is the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC) part of the Joint Staff?

A: No, the Executive Director of the JRAC is under the operational control of the Deputy Secretary of Defense but administratively works through the USD(A&S). The rationale is that Joint Chiefs of Staff can define requirements, but it is the USD(A&S)’s responsibility for acquisition of requirements. Funding is a Comptroller responsibility which completes the necessary triad for success: requirements, acquisition, funding.

Q: What is the difference between a "Joint Urgent Operational Need, JUON” and a "Joint Emergent Operational Need, JEON” and how do these terms relate to Rapid Acquisition Authority?

A:   A combatant commander (CCDR), CJCS, or VCJCS, identifies a Joint Urgent Operational Need. It must be generated from an ongoing, named operation. It will require Joint Chiefs of Staff validation and funding from the Solution Sponsor. Usually, the JUON gains Joint Staff validation within days or a couple of weeks.

Joint Emergent Operational Needs are UONs that are identified by a Combatant Command (CCMD), CJCS, or VCJCS, as inherently joint and impacting an anticipated contingency operation.

Both JUONs and JEONs must:

(1) Fall outside of the established Service processes; and

(2) If not addressed immediately, UONs result in capability gaps potentially resulting in loss of life or critical mission failure. They should not involve the development of a new technology or capability which may take more than two years.

Q: If you’re moving so fast, how do you know what you’re sending to the field will work?

A: For urgent requirements, schedule is more important than cost or performance. Fast is more important than perfect. Notionally, a 70% solution delivered today is better than a 100% solution in five years. It is expected; however, that the Program Manager will work closely with the warfighters who requested the solution and provide them with the capabilities and limitations of the equipment being fielded.

After a solution is fielded, the Combatant Command is required to do an assessment of operational utility of the capability within six months of fielding to ensure it is fulfilling the need.

In collaboration with the original requesting DoD Component, a post-deployment assessment by the Program Management Office will also be conducted after deployment. If practical, the PM will conduct the assessment in the field by the supporting operational test organization. If not practical, the PM may use alternate means for this assessment.

Newly added! (April 2020)

Q. New DoDI 5000.81 cancels Encl 13 of DoDI 5000.02 (w/ Change 5), now publishing 5000.02 w/ Change 6 (DoDI 5000.02T). Why reference Change 5 and not Change 6?

AAF Policy Scorecard for UCA, showing that there are a multitude of related policies, from a DAU briefing chart for the UCA pathway.


This question references the AAF UCA Pathway RDT Webcast on 10 March 2020.

DoDI 5000.81, published 31 Dec 19, specifically states that it incorporated and cancelled Encl 13 from Change 5 of DoDI 5000.02 because the “T” version had not yet been published, so the statement on the slide reflects the instruction at the time of publication. Also, 5000.02T, published 23 Jan 20, lists the Urgent Capability Acquisition enclosure as Enclosure 12, not 13, an administrative change.

Q: We understand that the PM/Acquisition community assumes more risk, but what about the Warfighter? Where/when is the risk (consequence and likelihood) considered? Who represents the “user” community?

A: The PM/Acquisition community assumes more acquisition risk in areas like schedule and testing in order to reduce the risks to Warfighter by providing a viable solution sooner than later. The “user” community is represented by the CCMDs, the JS/J8, and Component requirements personnel.

Section 4, para 4.3, b. (1) of DoDI 5000.81 states that development of the JUON/JEON solution includes an assessment of the performance, safety, suitability, survivability, supportability, including software, and lethality, if appropriate. It does not require that all identified deficiencies including those related to safety be resolved prior to production or deployment.

The Milestone Decision Authority will, in consultation with the user community and the requirements validation authority, determine which deficiencies must be resolved and what risks can be accepted. The accepted risks will allow the user community to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures to help minimize the operational risks.

Q: Are we accepting a 70% solution across the board, e.g., cyber aspects (risk of compromise), interoperability (risk of fratricide or leakers), operationally effective and suitable (usability, negative secondary impacts)...?

70 Percent Solution Chart from briefing on UCA pathway makes the point that "Fast is more important than perfect.  A 70% solution delivered today is better than a 100% solution in five years."

A: This question references the AAF UCA Pathway RDT Webcast on 10 March 2020.

The 70% solution number is a notional answer; “it depends” is a more accurate answer. The goal is 100% but given the resources, especially time, allocated to fielding a solution to an urgent need, risks will be increased for all parties and the acquirer may only be able to provide less than the total required capability. Don’t fixate on the percentage of capability provided but rather the speed at which some amount of militarily useful capability is provided to the warfighter.

It is not usually a one-shot/one-time delivery, but rather an incremental deployment of capability that improves over time with warfighter feedback and operational experience. Expectation management is key and capability to be delivered to the warfighter should be communicated and documented, including known risks, by the PM for the warfighter.

Q: How does the PM assess risk (is it standardized), and how are they documenting it?

A: The capabilities and limitations of the solution are documented by the PM and briefed to the Joint Staff, JRAC and requesting CCMD. The CCMD determines if the known risks are acceptable. No specific format for the risk assessment is specified.

Having said that, the DoD Risk, Issue, and Opportunity Management Guide (2017) provides the official DoD guidance to PMs to assess risk. The guide no longer contains a template for a “Risk Management Plan” but Appendix A.1 contains the “Program Risk Process” that provides a tailorable outline that the PM could use for this purpose. The guide’s 5×5 likelihood and consequence scales can be tailored for the acquisition pathway situation, with urgent capability acquisition schedule being on a much shorter timeframe than for a normal program of record. DoDI 5000.81, 4.2.c.(2) tasks the PM, in collaboration with the intended user community and requirements validation authority, to consider acquisition, operational, safety, and supportability risks during development of courses of action, but the instruction doesn’t specify how those risks should be documented during COA development.

After the COA is chosen by the MDA, the PM documents risks and mitigation approaches in the acquisition strategy, but again no specific format/template is provided—the PM and MDA have flexibility to use whatever format best suits the situation.

Screenshot of the Risk and Opportunity Guide launch page on the DAU website shows the green button to push to use the DAU tool.

Click this graphic to go to the RIO Guide web page.

Q: If a Component is responsible for assessing risk, how do they assess risk to other Components' (aka Joint) operations/capabilities (e.g., use of Variable Message Format (VMF) and data links)?

A: This will be a conversation, possibly at many different levels. When the urgent need requirement is being vetted for approval, the assigned Joint Staff Functional Capability Board “triages” the JUON/JEON, as this is the initial look at all options, e.g. materiel, non-materiel, Government Furnished Materiel, other possible urgent needs from other components.

For the selected Course of Action, the Program Manager, in coordination with the Combatant Command (CCMD), ensures the solution’s compatibility with other Components operating within the CCMD’s area of responsibility. The PM provides the solution’s capabilities and limitations and the CCMD then determines if the solution and risks are acceptable for fielding.

Remember, a JUON/JEON is normally requested by a CCMD for a specific ongoing/anticipated contingency so the requirement and solution may (initially) be focused on a niche capability to solve the urgent need in the shortest possible time, not necessarily will it work for everyone/everything worldwide.

Q: Regarding the analysis of safety and supportability risks, what about the technical risks associated with the solution When/where in this process will the PM have to address these?

This graphic shows the DAU briefing chart referenced in the question and points out the noteworthy changes from the previous policy, specifically that it highlights the analysis of safety and supportability risks.

A: This question references the AAF UCA Pathway RDT Webcast on 10 March 2020.

As part of the Pre-Development Activities, the PM analyzes the potential courses of action (COA) that consider, among other things, the acquisition risks (cost, schedule, and performance) so the technical risks would be included in these analyses (DoDI 5000.81, 4.2.c. (2)(b)2.). For the recommended COA to the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) at the Development Decision, the MDA uses technical maturity as one entry criteria into the Development Phase by reviewing the PM’s acquisition strategy to determine if the preferred solution “does not require substantial development effort” and “is based on technologies that are proven and available.” – DoDI 5000.81, 4.3.a. (2)(b). Therefore, the PM will have to address technical risk of the selected COA in the acquisition strategy.

Q: Is the “scope of employment” managed, i.e., to prevent a JEON from being used outside the scope of the original requirement, i.e., the emergent need that justifies the acceptable zone of risk?

A: The “scope of employment” is managed by the Joint Staff, JRAC and the Combatant Command. Page B-F-2 to B-F-4, of the JCIDS Manual, provides the format for a JUON / JEON request.

Required quantities for materiel capability solutions and their distribution among applicable DoD Components is requested in paragraph 2.4.7. Total quantities must include both the required operational inventory, as well as required quantities for training, spares, scheduled repair/overhaul pipeline, and anticipated attrition over the projected lifecycle, so that the required operational inventory is maintained which limits the scope of employment.

Q: DoD Component and a Sponsor are assigned to further define the “Need” and develop a solution. But at what point (and in what form) are the joint performance requirements articulated to support continued operations when the solution becomes a Program of Record, i.e., the solution is no longer sustained under the Urgent Acquisition policy)?

A: Section 4 para 4.5. (3) e. (c.) of DoDI 5000.81 states that if the capability serves an enduring purpose, it may be transitioned to a program of record (POR), once funded in the component’s budget.

The disposition official will recommend to the Component Acquisition Executive the acquisition point of entry into the defense acquisition system, and whether the Milestone Decision Authority should retain program authority or whether it should transition elsewhere. The MDA will determine where the capability will enter the acquisition process for the POR.

The requirements validation authority will specify the capability requirement documents required to support transition to a new or existing POR.

Q: If issues are identified in the field, how are changes implemented, and when/how does the revised “requirement” or solution get documented?

A: Section 4., para 4.5., c., DoDI 5000.81, states that the Program Manager or the user community may propose urgently needed improvements to the capability.

If within the scope of the initial requirement document, procedures in DoDI 5000.81 may be used to acquire the improvements. If improvements are outside the scope of the validated or approved requirement document, a new or amended requirement document may be required.

Changes could result from any of the required reviews: Operational Utility Assessment (NLT 6 months after fielding), quarterly, and biennial reviews; or from an issue that arises outside these windows. In any case, a modification review is completed at the request of the JUON/JEON sponsor to the JS J8 Gatekeeper.

This request is sent to the Lead Joint Staff Functional Capability Board for this JUON/JEON, for a validation / no validation recommendation to the validation authority. The validation authority generates a Joint Requirements Oversight Council Memorandum (JROCM) on their decision to validate or not validate the modification. (see JCIDS Manual for more details, p. A-B-7, Sec 3.4)

Q: What criteria does R&E use to “review” requirements? Is there an evaluation framework? Are there any objective, measurable performance requirements? Is there any way to track what was or wasn't tested?

A: I think the first three questions are in the same context of Pre-Development Activities, but the last one on what was or wasn’t tested falls more into the Development/Production & Deployment phases. USD(R&E) is represented on the Warfighter Senior Integration Group where urgent needs are discussed. The technical subject matter experts on the OUSD(R&E) staff would be expected to provide information on technology state of the art/state of use and manufacturing capability to help the requirements validation authority assess feasibility of satisfying the urgent need in the time required (<2yrs). They could additionally advise solution sponsors on relevant technologies.

As for what was or wasn’t tested, what is to be tested is covered in the PM’s planned testing approach submitted to and approved by the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) at the Development Decision (DoDI 5000.81, 4.3.a. (2)(f)), then reviewed again at the Production & Deployment Decision (4.4.b. (2)), and reviewed again during the post-deployment assessment 6 months after initial deployment (4.4.d.). Testing by the PM during Development will likely focus on safety and performance to meet the need as quickly as possible, with discussions with the user on risk acceptance. The MDA also discusses risk acceptance with the user and requirements communities during Development and determines “which deficiencies must be resolved and what risks can be accepted” (4.3.b. (1)).

Q: Is the intent that a “JEON” go into a Middle Tier Acquisition “Rapid Fielding” program status?

A: No, that is not the intent, a JEON like a JUON is validated in accordance with JCIDS by the Joint Staff and should be resolved in two years. They follow the Urgent Acquisition Capability Pathway and not the MTA Pathway which can take up to five years.

Q: DoDI 5000.81 seems to say the “program” or Component and R&E are involved with defining and approving the need and requirements, even if Joint. Per Title 10 U.S. Code, Section 181 gives the CJCS, through the Vice Chairman and the JROC the authority to validate joint requirements. Please clarify whether CJCS and the JROC still retain the authority to validate Joint requirements, or if will this be delegated to the Component and R&E for this specific pathway.

A: Nothing has changed with the requirements validation authority. The Acquisition community and USD(R&E) do not validate a requirement; they provide advice to the requirements validation authority.