The functional elements are discussed briefly below.

  1. System concept creation. This is a creative process for selecting a basic approach for a system to achieve the desired outcomes. The following guidelines are important in this phase:

    • Consider alternatives. It is important that at least two alternative concepts be considered before locking in a solution.

    • Consider the "time value of capability.” Seek concepts that can deliver initial capability within about 5 years (measured from Milestone B). Each year that a needed capability is delayed has a cost to those who need it, and delays the availability of operational data and experience to guide subsequent improvements. Development programs that are successful and timely at initial operational capability (IOC) often become platforms on which many other capabilities are subsequently added. The world changes too fast to be friendly to long development cycles. Further, extended delivery times run the risk of the system becoming obsolete before deployment and can be an indication that the concept is excessively complex or excessively dependent on immature technology in its first delivery. Indeed, one insidious effect of long development cycles prior to IOC is that they create the temptation to add new emerging technologies and to further tune the requirements, which have the effect of further increasing the pre-IOC development cycle. Historical precedent shows that many complex major systems can achieve IOC in less than about 5 years.

The Air Force has a detailed analysis of alternatives (AoA) process that can be invoked in this phase. In Air Force Instruction (AFI) 10-601,1 the role of the AoA process is described as follows:

The AoA provides information that helps the decision makers select the most cost effective alternative(s), in order to satisfy a mission need or eliminate an operational gap/shortfall in capability. It compares alternative solutions on the basis of operational effectiveness, and cost. It documents the analytical and operational rationale for choosing the preferred alternative(s). It also helps to justify the need for starting, stopping or continuing an acquisition program.

In its grandest form, this process is extensive in defining methodology and documentation requirements and should be tailored to meet the needs of each program.


Office of Aerospace Studies Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), 2003, Guidance in Support of AFI 10-60 (revised September 22, 2003), Kirtland Air Force Base, N.Mex.: Office of Aerospace Studies.

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