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Acquisition Categories (ACAT) and Terms

Last Revised: August 11, 2017, 10:57 am

The category of an acquisition program shall generally be determined based upon an assessment of cost, complexity and risk. A description of the most commonly discussed Acquisition Category (ACAT) levels follows:

ACAT I: Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAP)
The Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD (AT&L)) designates MDAPs as ACAT ID (Defense Acquisition Board) or ACAT IC (Component). The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) for an ACAT ID program is USD (ATL), and the MDA for ACAT IC (Component) Department of the Navy (DON) programs is the Secretary of the Navy or the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Research, Development & Acquisition (ASN (RDA)). To achieve this level of designation, a program must exceed $480 million in FY 2014 constant dollars in research and development funding, exceed $2.79 billion in FY 2014 constant dollars in procurement funding or be designated as “Special Interest” by the MDA.
The Marine Corps leads the following ACAT I programs: the MV-22 Osprey Program; the Ground Aviation Task Oriented Radar; the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement; and the Common Aviation Command and Control System.
The Marine Corps also participates in numerous joint ACAT I programs, including the Saber Anti-Armor Weapon System, Javelin Missile System and Joint Battle Command - Platform (JBC-P) Increment 1.
ACAT IA: Major Automated Information Systems (MAIS) USD(AT&L) designates MAIS programs as ACAT IAM (MAIS) or ACAT IAC (Component) and is the MDA for ACAT IAM programs, unless delegated to the DoD Chief Information Officer (CIO).
The ASN(RDA) is the MDA for DON ACAT IAC programs. These are the largest automated information system (AIS) acquisition programs. There are several cost thresholds for this level, which include AIS programs with single-year funding, in all appropriations in excess of $40 million in FY 2014 constant dollars, with total program cost in excess of $165 million in FY 2014 constant dollars, or total lifecycle costs in excess of $520 million in FY 2014 dollars, or designated as “Special Interest” by the MDA.

These programs do not meet the threshold for ACAT I, but have research and development funding in excess of $185 million in FY 2014 constant dollars or procurement funding in excess of $835 million in FY2014 constant dollars. They are also known as Major Systems and the USD (AT&L) or his designee is the MDA for ACAT II programs. The Marine Corps funds two ACAT II program: The Logistics Vehicle Systems Replacement and the Lightweight 155 Howitzer.

Programs that do not meet the cost threshold for ACAT I or II but involve combat capability are designated ACAT III or IV programs. Within the Marine Corps, the designation generally depends on the level of program management and oversight assigned by Commander, Marine Corps Systems Command, Program Executive Officer Land Systems, or the Direct Reporting Program Manager when that applies. The Marine Corps currently manages 5 ACAT III programs.

There are two categories of ACAT IV programs. ACAT IVT (Test) programs require Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E), while ACAT IVM (Monitor) programs do not. Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR) or Director, Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity (Director, MCOTEA) may elect to monitor ACAT IVM programs. The Marine Corps manages 22 such programs.

Abbreviated Acquisition Programs (AAPs)
AAPs are programs that do not meet the criteria for ACAT IV or above and does not require operational test and evaluation. Developmental costs for AAPs cannot exceed $10 million and total program value cannot exceed $50 million. For information technology systems, developmental costs cannot exceed $15 million, or program costs exceed $30 million. For the past several years, the Marine Corps manages approximately 100 AAP programs at any given time. Operations and Support Programs (O&S Programs) As total life-cycle managers of already acquired and fielded systems, the Marine Corp Systems Command maintains control and management oversight responsibilities for more than 300 independent systems needed to support the warfighter.

Acquisition Phases and Terms
Materiel Solution Analysis Phase (Pre-Milestone A): The purpose of this phase is to assess potential materiel solutions and to satisfy the phase-specific entrance criteria for the next program milestone designated by the MDA. The most promising systems concepts shall be defined, in part, by broad objectives for performance and the identification of interoperability and integration requirements within a family of systems or system of systems. The Materiel Solution Analysis Phase ends when the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) has been completed, materiel solution options for the capability need identified in the approved Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) have been recommended, and the phase-specific entrance criteria for the initial review milestone have been satisfied.
Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction Phase (Pre-Milestone B): The purpose of this phase is to reduce technology risk, to determine and mature the appropriate set of technologies to be integrated into a full system, and to demonstrate critical technology elements on prototypes. Technology Development is a continuous technology discovery and development process reflecting close collaboration between the science and technology (S&T) community, the user, and the system developer. It is an iterative process designed to assess the viability of technologies while simultaneously refining user requirements.

Engineering and Manufacturing Development (Pre-Milestone C): This is the phase in which a system or increment of capability is developed. Work in this phase includes reduction of integration and manufacturing risk, ensuring operational supportability, human systems engineering, design for the ability to produce, and demonstration of system integration, interoperability and utility.

Production and Deployment (Post-Milestone C): This is the phase in which the operational capability that satisfies mission needs is achieved through operational test and evaluation to determine effectiveness, and suitability. Milestone C authorizes entry into Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP, for MDAPs and major systems), into production or procurement (for non-major systems that do not require LRIP), or into limited deployment in support of operational testing for MAIS programs or software-intensive systems with no production components.

The MDAPs and other programs on the Office of the Secretary of Defense(OSD) Test and Evaluation Oversight List, Production and Deployment have two major efforts –– LRIP and Full-Rate Production and Deployment –– and require a Full-Rate Production (FRP) Decision Review. For MAIS programs or software intensive systems with no production components, the FRP Decision Review is referred to as the Full Deployment Decision Review. A Non-Developmental Item (NDI): An NDI is any previously developed item of supply used exclusively for government purposes by a federal agency, a state or local government, or a foreign government with which the United States has a mutual defense cooperation agreement. An NDI requires only minor modifications or modifications of the type customarily available in the commercial marketplace in order to meet the requirements of the Marine Corps.

Initial Operational Capability (IOC): In general, IOC is reached when some units or organizations in the force structure scheduled to receive a system have received it and have the ability to employ and maintain it. The specifics for any particular system IOC are defined in that system’s Capability Development Document (CDD) and Capability Production Document (CPD).

Full Operational Capability (FOC): In general, FOC is attained when all units and organizations in the force structure scheduled to receive a system have received it and have the ability to employ and maintain it. The specifics for any particular system FOC are defined in that system’s CDD and CPD.

  • About Concepts and Programs

    The vision of the Concepts and Programs project is to provide political and military leaders with timely, accurate, and relevant information. The Concepts and Programs project is the premier strategic communications vessel the Marine Corps relies on to inform Congress, the Office of Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Think Tanks about the Corps’ vision.