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Technical Baselines


Alternate Definition

Technical baselines include the functional baseline, allocated baseline and product baseline. Each of the technical baselines is a reference from which to measure progress of the system development.

General Information

Technical baselines are formally controlled definitions of the characteristics of a system. Each of the technical baselines is placed under configuration management when it is established and is maintained under contractor or government control based on the progress of the system development through technical reviews and audits. As development proceeds, the program establishes its functional baseline, allocated baseline, and product baseline.

Technical baselines describe product functions, performance, and interfaces. They enable the underlying design to progress using a common reference. Once a baseline is established, change becomes a formalized process which provides stability during design. Management of technical baselines is typically part of configuration management process. Technical baselines have a close relationship with the system work breakdown structure (WBS).

As the system design progresses from conceptual to developmental to a product, the system description is typically formalized through a series of increasingly detailed baselines as depicted in Table 1.

Table 1: Specification and Baseline Maturation
Technical Review Typical Baseline Actions
Alternative Systems Review (ASR) Draft system requirements documentation for preferred materiel solution
System Requirements Review (SRR) Mutual understanding between Government and Contractor on the System Performance Specification
System Functional Review (SFR) System Performance Specification approved for use as Functional Baseline and placed under Government configuration authority
Preliminary Design Review (PDR) Item Performance Specifications approved for use as Allocated Baseline and placed under Contractor configuration authority
Critical Design Review (CDR) Item Detail Specification approved for use as Product Baseline (Initial) and placed under Contractor configuration authority
Functional Configuration Audit (FCA) or System Verification Review (SVR) Allocated Baseline placed under Government configuration authority
Production Readiness Review Production Baseline examined to determine if the design is ready for production
Physical configuration audit (PCA) Product Baseline (Final) placed under Government configuration authority

Technical baselines are under configuration management when they are established. (They are sometimes referred to as “configuration baselines.”) The Configuration Control Board that controls each baseline may be chaired by either Government or contractor depending on the maturity of the baseline. Depending on the program manager’s acquisition strategy, the Government may choose not to control the allocated baseline and the product baseline. (This is common for commercial items.)

  • Notes

This article treats the most common relationship where the Government is the acquirer and a Contractor is the supplier. In some cases the supplier may, in fact, be another Government entity.
There are also a number of other baselines used in DoD acquisition which are not “technical baselines.” These include acquisition program baselines, requirements baselines, cost baselines, schedule baselines, performance measurement baselines, and over target baselines.