At a Milestone Approval, the Milestone Decision Authority releases an Acquisition Decision Memorandum with specific guidance and approvals. Generally, the approval includes the authority to enter into the next phase or work effort of the Acquisition lifecycle to include awarding a contract or contracts to perform the work. If the acquisition strategy for other than full and open competition is approved by the Milestone Decision Authority, a Justification and Authorization (J&A) must be approved prior to the contract award.
Therefore, the answer to the question: Can a J&A be approved before the Milestone approval, is yes, it can and should be approved before the milestone approval so that a contract can be awarded. Similarly, the J&A process should begin and be completed before the milestone approval. Because the competitive environment is a key element to address in an acquisition strategy, abiding by this process ensures the MDA has a robust site picture of the competitive nature of the acquisition strategy submitted for his/her approval