U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Competitive Advantage Pathfinders


  1. Home
  2. Competitive Advantage Pathfinders
CAP Hero Background 3


Established by the Deputy Secretary of Defense in February 2022, the Competitive Advantage Pathfinders (CAPs) initiative aims to demonstrate challenges and solutions to barriers in capability fielding by illuminating disconnects among the legs of the "3-Legged Stool."

'Common Challenges within each leg of the 3-Legged Stool' Light purple venn diagram with solid red circle in the overlap. First circle 'Requirements Focus on needed capabilities'. Second circle 'Resourcing Speed up funding for high-priority capabilities'. Third circle 'Acquisition and Sustainment fielded quickly at scale'. Captioned with 'Lack of alignment across the Defense Acquisition Enterprise inhibits capability delivery'.   
To date, two CAPs “sprints” are underway consisting of 13 total pathfinders. In its first year, Sprint I (including six pathfinders) has demonstrated a number of early successes in both accelerating capability delivery and identifying scalable reforms.

Sprint II (containing seven pathfinders) is already stimulating discussion on known and anticipated challenges for rapid capability delivery. At this phase, emphasis is being placed on institutionalizing the identified reforms to ensure pathfinder successes endure and scale to the broader Department of Defense.

CAPs will:

  • Accelerate and deliver producible and sustainable capability to the warfighter
  • Identify examples of challenges in current “3-Legged Stool” system
  • Inform future reforms across the defense ecosystem


The Department of Defense is teaming up with Defense Acquisition University (DAU) to develop educational resources and courses that increase awareness and utilization of the many tools and approaches that CAPs have illuminated.

Candidate Selection Criteria

How are programs chosen to be CAPs?

Four step flowchart. 1. Program Types: These types of programs are candidates to be CAPs: Fielded Systems, Acquisition Programs, Mature S&T Programs. 2. Obstacles: What barriers are keeping the program from operating effectively? Policy/ Process, Requirements/Resourcing, Priority Mismatch. 3. Criteria: Does this program match our standards to be a CAP? Outcomes: Does this improve our lethality? (on a peach circle background), Processes: How does this improve 'Big A?' (on a slate blue circle background), Constraints: How feasible is this pathfinder? (on a yellow circle background). 4. Reform: Refinement of decision, based on a program's Outcomes (peach background), Processes (slate blue background), and Constraints (yellow background). Table with three colored sections and arrows from the three circles in step 3 pointing toward the color-matched section. Peach table title: Outcomes: Left Column: Warfighting Impact, Capability Mapping. Right Column: Ability to meet or fill priority warfighting capability gaps or needs, improving lethality, Will this improve Service or Joint Force lethality? Slate blue table title: Processes: Left Column: Process Change, Repeatability, Scalability. Right Column: Effect on changing the Department's way of doing things, How repeatable is the process? Can multiple programs of a similar nature use this pathway?, How scalable is the process? Can it be implemented with disimilar programs?. Yellow table title: Constraints: Left Column: Program Maturity, Cost Impact, DSD Fielding Target, Schedule Impacts. Right Column: Technical and technological maturity, Funding requirements, Ability to meet the two-year fielding timeline, Degree of schedule compression achieved relative to typical/historical processes and experiences. Bottom left corner of image contains the text: This is a deliberate, outcome-oriented process to select and assess potential pathfinders. Click here for a PDF version of the infographic. 

Success Stories

Pegasus - Soaring from Ships to the Air

Just as the winged-horse Pegasus was formed from the sea, tamed by Athena the Goddess of War, and loyally carried Zeus’s terrifying lightning bolts through the sky, the Navy and Air Force are developing a capability that can miniaturize the ship-based electronic attack module called Medusa, for use in helicopters and airplanes. Medusa provides vital situational awareness and electronic attack functions to degrade/deny adversary anti-access/area denial capabilities. Up until now, this capability has been too big for planes and helicopters to use in highly contested environments.

The new capability, aptly called Pegasus, compacts the ship-based system into a size, weight and power that is suitable for aviation platforms. When deployed, Pegasus will significantly reduce risk to ship and aircraft duringLight gray military helicopter flying through blue skies with wispy clouds behind it critical missions such as Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Mine Warfare, Combat Search and Rescue, Expeditionary troop movement, Strike, Offensive, Counter Air, Defensive Counter Air, and Anti Surface Warfare.

Leveraging the Competitive Advantage Pathfinders (CAPs) approach, the time from funding availability through development completion is estimated to be 18 months – three years ahead of schedule. This pathfinder has shown that the wide array of DoD platforms with this antenna configuration are immediate candidates to benefit from this capability – delivering situational awareness and electronic attack functions at scale to benefit our Warfighters.    

From Ship to Shore - A Cross-Service Electronic Warfare Study

Cross-service use of technologies shortens the development cycle and takes advantage of existing investments. When the Army started investigating improved Electronic Warfare (EW) technologies, they didn’t have to start at the design/development stage; rather, the Army entered at the demonstration stage by partnering with the Navy. 

From ship to shore, Navy EW technology was leveraged for successful demonstration in Army scenarios with minimal hardware/software/firmware changes. Leaving the gray exterior behind and sporting a fresh coat of tan paint, modularity of the shipboard components enabled their nearly direct use on Army vehicles. The EW capability provides the ability to deny/degrade adversary sensors for both Navy and Army missions from the same set of equipment.

Facilitated by the Competitive Advantage Pathfinders (CAPS) approach, the Army can now take the demonstration results and use those to tailor the technology to their specific needs.    

U.S. Department of Defense 2022 National Defense Strategy. Front cover of pdf with world map inside a circle of stars and a dark blue top border with red and white stripes.

CAPs: Sharpening Our Technological Edge

"U.S. competitors increasingly hold at risk our defense ecosystem [. . .] The United States' technological edge has long been a foundation of our military advantage."


 2022 National Defense Strategy                          
Source: Link to Full Document