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IA&E in the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF)

My blogs over the past few months have concentrated on the International Acquisition & Exportability (IA&E) policy guidance contained in a series of Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) DoD…

IA&E in the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF)


  1. Home
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  3. IA&E in the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF)
IA&E in the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF)
Frank Kenlon (Prof of Int'l Acq, DAU/DSMC-Int'l)

My blogs over the past few months have concentrated on the International Acquisition & Exportability (IA&E) policy guidance contained in a series of Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) DoD directives and instructions published in 2019 and 2020. This blog will examine the IA&E aspects of key AAF policy issuances in three areas:

  • Overarching Policies that govern the entire Defense Acquisition System (DAS).
  • Acquisition Pathway Policies that address most international acquisition activities conducted by DoD with or on behalf of allied and friendly nations.
  • Functional Policies that directly influence international acquisition efforts, including the Science & Technology (S&T) area. 

Overarching DAS Policies

The new DoD Directive 5000.01 (The Defense Acquisition System) bases future DoD acquisition policy on the AAF approach, coupled with extensive delegation of most acquisition program/project oversight and management responsibilities to the DoD Components.  The net effect of this policy change is to delegate the lion's share of the responsibility for identifying and pursuing new IA&E opportunities – particularly in the International Cooperative Program (ICP) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) areas – to the DoD Components.  This is a significant departure from previous DoD policy and practice, which relied upon the Office of SecDef to engage allied and friendly nations in exploratory discussions on potential ICP opportunities and encourage DoD Component Acquisition Executives (CAEs) to establish new ICPs, particularly in new start system development.

The other new DoDD 5000.01 IA&E policy change involves planning for coalition partner involvement DoD acquisition through early design and development implementation of program-level international acquisition and exportability features.  Experience has shown that such efforts lead to expanded program-level ICP opportunities and FMS arrangements that expand and enrich partnerships with allied and friendly nations, enhancing both U.S. and coalition military capability.

With respect to the other two overarching DAS policies -- the newly issued DoD Instruction 5000.02 (Operation of the AAF) and revised DoDI 5000.02T (Operation of the DAS) -- the primary changes involve devolution of acquisition policy (including the IA&E area) previously contained in these DODIs to a series of:

  • Specific DODIs established for each AAF Acquisition Pathway.
  • Specific DoDIs established for key AAF functional areas.

The net effect of this change in approach is that DODI 5000.02 is no longer the 'one stop shop bible' of DoD acquisition policy that we've operated under for many years.  Instead, DoD acquisition workforce members should identify the pertinent set of AAF policy issuances that apply to their program/project – Overarching, Acquisition Pathway and Functional area – the follow the policy guidance (including IA&E guidance) relevant to their specific AAF acquisition effort.

Acquisition Pathway Policies

Major Capability Acquisition (MCA)

The primary change regarding MCA programs is in the area of defense exportability. The new guidance in DoDI 5000.85 (Major Capability Acquisition) requires mandatory implementation of building defense exportability into new start MCA programs by requiring Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) waivers for domestic-only design, development, and production efforts at each decision milestone. 

MCA IA&E policy for all Acquisition Category (ACAT) levels regarding planning for International Cooperative Programs (ICPs), Foreign Military Sales (FMS), other potential foreign sales or transfers, and program protection/defense exportability in a program's Acquisition Strategy remains the same since this is a Title 10 requirement. The long-standing Title 10 requirement for completing an ICP cooperative opportunities analysis on MCA programs also still exists. The results should be documented in the program's Acquisition Strategy.

Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)

MTA programs conducted under DoDI 5000.80 (Operation of the MTA) and DoD Component-issued MTA policy are exempt from both Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (CJCSI 5123.01H) and DoDD 5000.01 requirements.  Moreover, this DoDI states that "major systems intended to satisfy requirements that are critical to a major interagency requirement or are primarily focused on technology development, or have significant international partner involvement are discouraged from using the MTA pathway."

While DoDI 5000.80 neither requires planning for IA&E nor implementation of defense exportability design and development during Rapid Prototyping, it does mention in its Procedures - Rapid Fielding paragraph 3.2.d. that "DoD Components will develop a process for considering lifecycle costs and address issues of logistics support and training; system, joint, and coalition interoperability; and planning for cooperative opportunities, to include foreign sales" with results to be documented in a "tailored lifecycle sustainment plan."  This DoDI also notes that "DoD Component-required procedures will be compliant with applicable statute" which presumably includes a Title 10 USC 2350a-required ICP cooperative opportunities assessment for each MTA program or project.  

While it is certainly possible that selected MTA programs with unique circumstances could be achieved more quickly and at a lower cost through ICP arrangements with one or more partner nations that have both near-term funding and leading edge technology to contribute, this would appear to be the exceptional (rather than normal) case.

Urgent Capability Acquisition

UCA programs implemented under DoDI 5000.81 (Urgent Capability Acquisition) that are designed to address urgent operational needs or quick reaction capabilities must be fielded in less than 2 years, and must not exceed $525 million in research, development, and test and evaluation, or $3.065 billion for procurements in Fiscal Year 2020 constant dollars.  This DoDI does not specifically mention either IA&E planning or defense exportability, but it does include potential coalition partner considerations in its definition of a "critical warfighter issue" in accordance with DoDD 5000.71.  

As a result of the two year fielding requirement, and the relatively low $525M RDT&E spending threshold, it does not appear that ICP arrangements or building in exportability to enable future FMS sales or Building Partner Capacity (BPC) transfers in UCA program would be viable unless an exceptional situation arose.  That said, if a particular "critical warfighter issue" brought forth by the DoD operational community to the Warfighter Senior Integration Group (SIG) involved both U.S. and coalition partner considerations, defense exportability features would have to be included that UCA program's design and development efforts to enable future FMS or BPC sales/transfer to the allied and friendly nations who have urgent need for the capability as well. 

Science & Technology (S&T) Projects

The current set of AAF policy issuances does not include a DoDI that focuses specifically on a DAS S&T "pathway," most likely because S&T efforts are not considered 'acquisition programs' per se, and because the S&T domain falls under the purview of USD (Research & Engineering) rather than USD (Acquisition & Sustainment).  Nonetheless, research has shown that -- from a statistical perspective -- ~2/3s of DoD's ICP international agreements involve cooperative S&T projects with allied/friendly nations and international organizations (e.g., NATO).   

ICP S&T projects come in all shapes and sizes, and have resulted mutually beneficial arrangements with a wide range of partners that share RDT&E costs and technology to achieve common defense objectives.  Robust S&T ICP cooperation with our allies and friends around the globe will likely continue as it has in the past, developing and maturing the technologies used in future acquisition programs/projects being pursued through the various AAF pathways.  

Functional Policies

DoDI 5000.83 (Technology and Program Protection to Maintain Technological Advantage) establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and provides procedures for S&T managers and lead systems engineers in Program Management Offices (PMOs)/Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) to manage system security and cybersecurity technical risks resulting from various types of omnidirectional threats in order to develop and implement measures to protect:

  • DoD-sponsored research and technology that is in the interest of national security.
  • DoD warfighting capabilities.

This DoDI applies to technology and program protection efforts in all Acquisition Pathways.  From an IA&E perspective, Experience has shown that the best way to build exportability into new and modified DoD systems is to include 'one size fits all' program protection – including cybersecurity, anti-tamper, and trusted systems & networks measures – to the maximum extent possible during the early stages of development. The 'one size fits all' program protection concept provides a robust foundation for future domestic and exportable system versions. As a result, it's essential that proposed DoDI 5000.83-based program protection measures are aligned with proposed DoDI 5000.85-based defense exportability features in future AAF program milestone decisions (or equivalent). 

DoDI 5000.73 (Cost Analysis Guidance and Procedures) specifically mentions the importance of calculating the impact of foreign military sales on ACAT I and II programs.  While not specifically mentioned, by inference it would also important to include the impact of partner nation non-recurring investment and recurring acquisition of program equipment and services through ICP international agreements that cover program-specific cooperation in initial development, production, sustainment, and/or follow-on development.   Experience has shown that ICP investment and economic order quantity (EOQ) benefits through foreign partner/customer ICP and FMS procurement generates substantial savings throughout a mature program's acquisition life-cycle. 

Policy issuances in other AAF Functional areas that typically influence program-level IA&E efforts -- such as DoDI 5000.84 (Analysis of Alternatives) and DoDI 5010.44 (Intellectual Property (IP) Acquisition and Licensing) – do not specifically mention IA&E.


My brief survey of AAF policy issuances indicates that IA&E is prominently mentioned in a few key directives and instructions, particularly DoDD 5000.01 (DAS) and DoDI 5000.85 (MCA).  The rest of the AAF policy issuances either briefly mention IA&E or don't address it at all.  What conclusions should we draw from this?

In my experience, DoD-level policy directives and instructions are used by senior leaders to emphasize what is important and influence DoD Component priorities.  In that regard, the new forward leaning AAF policy guidance on planning for coalition partners and establishing building exportability as a mandatory requirement for new MCA programs is a big step forward for advocates of IA&E efforts.   

On the other hand, the AAF policy for MTA programs discouraging international involvement, and lack of mention of IA&E in the UCA pathway policy, is likely based on the perception that IA&E 'slows things down,' hindering a program's agility and responsiveness to emerging U.S. warfighter needs.  While this perception is generally true, I believe there are likely exceptions to this 'rule' in MTA and UCA situations where a common U.S.-partner view of emerging military capability requirements exists, partner funding is immediately available, and the partner has (and is willing to share) leading edge technology that we need.  

Moreover, if the MTA or UCA program is successful in fielding a new capability, we typically operate and fight in coalitions where allied and friendly nations will see it in use and want to acquire it as well.  Experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere indicates that U.S. operational force commanders often strongly support such requests.  DoDI 5000.80 even establishes a Rapid Fielding phase procedures regarding planning for coalition interoperability, cooperative program opportunities, and foreign sales.  However, if these types of MTA or UCA programs fail to build in exportability during the Rapid Prototyping phase, the unfortunate pattern of delay or denying partner nation requests for the system until exportability measures can be developed and 'backfitted' -- and dealing with the challenges of who pays for such efforts -- will very likely occur again.  

Finally, what if an AAF policy issuance is silent on IA&E?  Consider the S&T area.  There is no AAF Pathway policy than governs S&T, yet cooperative S&T efforts with allied and friendly nations have been quite effective in attracting and leveraging partner nation involvement as well as obtaining leading edge technology from around the globe. 

One of my mentors in Naval Aviation 'back in the day' counselled me to view a lack of policy guidance as an opportunity rather than a problem.  He told me, "if it's not illegal, and no one has ordered us not to do something, then give it a try; just be prepared to deal with the consequences if your idea doesn't work out."  In my experience, there are a lot of advantages associated with this philosophy if you are not afraid of getting a few bumps and bruises along the way …


The 'old' approach that focused on a single primary source of acquisition policy in DoDI 5000.02 is gone, replaced by a distributed architecture of AAF policy issuances and a "Tailoring In" philosophy that "empower[s] innovation and common-sense decision making through the decision-making process, while also maintaining discipline in our practices and procedures" (ASD (Acquisition) Kevin Fahey).  I encourage DoD's International Acquisition and Security Cooperation members to employ a similar mindset in their efforts to identify, plan, and implement the IA&E aspects of current and future AAF programs and projects.   

Until next time, Prof K