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Analysis of Alternatives (AoA)

ARQM 001


Assessment of potential materiel solutions to satisfy the capability need documented in the approved Initial Capabilities Document. It focuses on identification and assesses potential materiel solutions, key trades between cost and capability, total life-cycle cost, including sustainment, schedule, concepts of operations, and overall risk. The AoA will inform and be informed by affordability analysis, cost analysis, sustainment considerations, early systems engineering analyses, threat projections, and market research. It supports a decision on the most cost effective solution that has a reasonable likelihood of providing the validated capability requirement(s). The AoA is normally conducted during the Materiel Solution Analysis phase, is key input to the Capability Development Document, and supports the materiel solution decision at Milestone A. The AoA may be updated for subsequent decision points and milestone reviews if design changes impact AoA assumptions.

Alternate Definition

The AoA assesses potential materiel solutions to mitigate the capability gaps documented in the validated Initial Capabilities Document (ICD). The AoA focuses on identification and analysis of alternatives, measures of effectiveness (MOE), cost, schedule, concepts of operation, and overall risk. This includes the sensitivity of each alternative to possible changes in key assumptions or variables. The AoA addresses trade space to minimize risk and also assesses critical technology elements associated with each proposed materiel solution. This includes technology maturity, integration risk, manufacturing feasibility, and, where necessary, technology maturation and demonstration needs. The AoA normally occurs during the Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) phase of the Major Capability Acquisition (MCA) pathway, is a key input to the Capability Development Document (CDD), and supports the materiel solution decision at Milestone A. (Sources: DoDI 5000.02 and JCIDS Manual)

Alternate Definition Source

DODI 5000.84 and JCIDS Manual

General Information

AoA Elements:

AoA Study Guidance - For potential and designated ACAT I programs, the Director for Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (DCAPE) prepares Study Guidance for the DoD Component Head at least 40 business days prior to the Materiel Development Decision (MDD). The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) will include this Sudy Guidance with the MDD Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM).  For ACAT II and III programs, Component AoA procedures apply.  

AoA Study Plan - For ACAT I programs, the AoA Study Plan is developed by the component or agency using the AoA Study Guidance issued by DCAPE and submitted 20 days prior to the MDD.  For ACAT I programs, DCAPE must approve the AoA Study Plan. The AoA Study Plan details the approach the sponsor will follow when conducting the AoA during the Mission Solutions Analysis (MSA) phase.  In addition to building the Study Plan and submitting it for approval, the component or agency must submit a memorandum to the MDA for ACAT I programs that ensures the completion of the AoA within nine months.  Only the Secretary of Defense or his/her delegate can waive this nine-month window.

AoA Final Report – The final Study Advisory Group (SAG) will meet either 55 business days before the next milestone’s Request for Proposal (RFP) or no later than nine months after the start of the AoA.  The AoA Sponsor provides the final AoA Report to DCAPE no later than 40 business days after briefing the final SAG. DCAPE evaluates the AoA Report and provides a memorandum to the MDA no later than 40 business days after receiving the AoA Final Report from the component (this memorandum may be received after the Developmental Request for Proposal Release Decision (DRFPRD) or Milestone A.  The sponsor also sends copies of the AOA Final Report to the DoD Component head or other organization or principal staff assistant assessing whether the analysis was completed consistent with the DCAPE Study Guidance and the DCAPE-approved Study Plan.

In the memorandum, DCAPE assesses the extent to which the AoA:

  • Examines sufficient feasible alternatives
  • Considers tradeoffs among cost, schedule, sustainment, and required capabilities for each alternative considered
  • Achieves the affordability goals established at the MDD and with what risks
  • Uses sound methodology
  • Discusses key assumptions and variables and sensitivity to changes in these
  • Bases conclusions or recommendations, if any, on the results of the analysis
  • Considers the fully burdened cost of energy (FBCE), where FBCE is a discriminator among alternatives
  • Whether additional analysis is required
  • How the MDA will use the AoA results to influence the direction of the program
  • The sponsor also provides the final AoA Report to the requirements validation authority for review prior to the Milestone A decision or the release of the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction Phase (TMRR) RFP.  The requirements validation authority will, at a minimum:
    • Assess how well the recommended alternative satisfies validated requirements in the most cost-effective manner for the warfighter
    • Identify any opportunities to adjust or align capability requirements for better synergy across the joint force
    • In accordance with the responsibilities identified in Title 10 of U.S. Code, offer alternative recommendations to best meet the validated capability requirements

The JROC or other validation authority will issue memoranda endorsing results of the AoA in addition to being a primary source of decision information for the MDA,  A JROCM or service specific validation memoranda may include this information.