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Alternative System Review (ASR)

AETM 004


A multidisciplined technical review to evaluate whether there is sufficient understanding of the technical maturity, feasibility, and risk of the preferred materiel solution. Review addresses the adequacy of the system requirements documentation in addressing the operational capability needs in the Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) and draft Capability Development Document (CDD), and in meeting affordability, technology, and operational effectiveness and suitability goals.

General Information

The following text is from the 2022 DoD Systems Engineering Guidebook, Section 3.1 Alternative Systems Review.

The ASR supports communication between the end user and acquisition community and leads to a draft performance specification for the preferred materiel solution. The ASR typically occurs early in the requirements analysis phase and focuses the technical efforts on requirements analysis.

The ASR should evaluate whether there is sufficient understanding of the technical maturity, feasibility and risk of the preferred materiel solution, in terms of addressing the operational capability needs in the applicable requirements document and meeting affordability, technology and operational effectiveness and suitability goals.

The ASR helps the PM, Systems Engineer, and Lead Software Engineer ensure that further engineering and technical analysis needed to draft the system performance specification is consistent with customer needs.

Roles and Responsibilities

The unique PM responsibilities associated with an ASR include:

  • Approving, funding, and staffing the ASR.

The unique Systems Engineer responsibilities associated with an ASR include:

  • Ensuring adequate plans are in place to complete the necessary technical activities for the ASR.
  • Ensuring results of all technical trade studies are captured in documents that are carried through to the next phase.
  • Ensuring technical risk items are identified and analyzed, and appropriate mitigation plans are in place. This activity should include, for example, the identification of critical technologies and identification of key interfaces with supporting or enabling systems.

Inputs and Review Criteria

The ASR typically occurs after the AoA is complete and after a preferred materiel solution is selected by the lead Service or Component but before the FCB review. This timing allows the focus of the ASR to be on the preferred materiel solution rather than on all the alternatives, and allows for some post-AoA technical analysis to be completed and inform the FCB deliberations.

  • The AoA results are an input to the ASR. The AoA should have evaluated a number of candidate materiel solutions and identified those alternatives that can meet the user requirements within the remaining trade space (including cost and affordability constraints).
  • After the AoA is complete, the operational requirements community and the acquisition community collaboratively identify one or more preferred materiel solution(s) with the potential to be affordable, operationally effective and suitable, sustainable and technically and technologically achievable (i.e., able to provide a timely solution to the stated operational capability need at an acceptable level of risk). This preferred materiel solution is also an input to the ASR.
  • The draft CONOPS/OMS/MP should be available as an input to the ASR. It should have been available for use in the AoA and can then be used to support development of missions and operational scenarios to evaluate the preferred materiel solution.

Table 3-1 identifies the products and associated review criteria normally seen as part of the ASR. The Chief Engineer should review this table and tailor the criteria for the program. The ASR should not begin until the criteria are met. A resource for ASR preparation is IEEE 15288.2 "Standard for Technical Reviews and Audits on Defense Programs". This is a best practice review.

Table 3-1. ASR Products and Criteria


Alternative Systems Review (ASR) Criteria

Refined Joint Requirements
  • Joint context and initial Concept of Operations/Operational Mode Summary/Mission Profile (CONOPS/OMS/MP) updated to reflect current user position about current and evolving capability gap(s), supported missions, mission analysis, Target Audience Description (TAD), interfacing/enabling systems in the operational architecture; overall system of systems (SoS) context
  • Required related solutions and supporting references (Initial Capabilities Document and Capability Development Document) identified
  • Joint refined thresholds and objectives initially stated as broad measures of effectiveness, performance, and suitability (e.g., Key Performance Parameters, Key System Attributes, need date)
Initial Architecture for the Preferred Materiel Solution(s)
  • High-level description of the preferred materiel solution(s) is available and sufficiently detailed and understood to enable further technical analysis
  • SoS interfaces and external dependencies are adequately defined
  • Task analyses, function allocation, human viewpoints
System Performance Specification
  • Clear understanding of the system requirements consistent with the applicable requirements document
  • System requirements are sufficiently understood to enable functional definition
  • Draft system performance specification has sufficiently conservative requirements to allow for design trade space
  • Relationship between draft system performance specification and risk reduction prototyping and competitive prototyping objectives is established
Preferred Materiel Solution(s) Documentation
  • Comprehensive rationale is available for the preferred materiel solution(s), based on the Analysis of Alternatives
  • Key assumptions and constraints associated with preferred materiel solution(s) are identified and support the conclusion that this solution can reasonably be expected to satisfy the applicable requirements document in terms of technical, operational, risk and schedule/cost (affordability) criteria
  • Results of trade studies/technical demonstrations for concept risk reduction, if available
  • Initial producibility assessments of solution concepts
Risk Assessment
  • Technical risks are identified, and mitigation plans are in development
  • Initial hazard analysis/system safety analysis for preferred solution(s) complete
  • Human systems integration risk identification and mitigation plans

Outputs and Products

The Technical Review Chair determines when the review is complete. ASR technical outputs should include, but not be limited to, the following products, including supporting rationale and trade-off analysis results:

  • Refined description of the preferred materiel solution to support further development.