stable requirements and funding between Milestone B and the achievement of initial operational capability (IOC) is stressed, as are processes including good configuration management and change control. The committee further stresses in the report what it regards as six of the most important process areas in its discussion of six “seeds of failure” in Chapter 4.


The use of formal systems engineering practices throughout the life cycle of an acquisition program is critical to fielding the required system on time and within budget. Across the top of Figure S-1 are the points at which important management decisions are made: Milestones A, B, and C. Concept development and refinement occur before Milestone A, and further technology development, to reduce system design and development (SDD) risk, occurs before Milestone B. Only after Milestone B does a program become an enterprise with dedicated funding. Importantly, Figure S-1 shows that about three-quarters of total system life cycle costs are influenced by decisions made before the end of the concept refinement phase at Milestone A, while about three-quarters of life cycle funds are not actually spent until after Milestone C. This means that although high-quality SE is necessary during the entire acquisition cycle, the application of SE to decisions made in the pre-Milestone A period is critical to avoiding (or at least minimizing) cost and schedule overruns later in a program. Much of the value of early, high-quality SE will be manifested as success in fulfilling Milestone B requirements.


The committee’s main findings and recommendations are given below.

Finding. Attention to a few critical systems engineering processes and functions particularly during preparation for Milestones A and B is essential to ensuring that Air Force acquisition programs deliver products on time and on budget.

Today’s weapons systems provide unprecedented capabilities but also involve complex interfaces with external command, control, and communications systems and rely on a greater volume of software than ever before. Early decisions on the weapons system requirements and capabilities have a disproportionately large impact on program cost and schedule. The committee also recognizes that a lack of flexibility (a result of overly rigid processes or a lack of trust among program participants or stakeholders) can limit the ability of a program manager to change early decisions that warrant changing.

The committee found many gaps and inconsistencies in the way that the Air Force manages pre-Milestone A activities. The committee heard from presenters

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