WHAT IS AN ACQUISITION PROGRAM?

The term “acquisition program” refers to the specific development program being managed under a single program manager. An acquisition program includes all of the activities that are conducted to define, develop, test, and produce a defense system. An acquisition program is not the same as an acquisition system, which refers to the weapon or defense system being developed and fielded by the acquisition program. It also includes all logistics support equipment, training simulators, test equipment, and other support items that are required to successfully deploy the defense system to its intended operating environment.

Each acquisition program falls into an acquisition category (ACAT), depending on its overall funding level and importance. The category determines the level of oversight required by a program. This oversight is provided by a Milestone Decision Authority (MDA), which is appointed by Department of Defense senior leadership. The most expensive programs are known as Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) or Major Automated Information Systems (MAISs). These programs have the most extensive reporting requirements. [1]  Different program categories are outlined below.

ACAT I PROGRAMS

ACAT I programs are Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) and the Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE) or designee will review potential ACAT I materiel solutions. The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics serves as the Defense Acquisition Executive. As a Major Defense Acquisition Program, an ACAT I program is not a highly classified program. The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)) is responsible for designating a program as a MDAP. Alternatively, a MDAP may be defined as a program estimated to require an expenditure of more than $480 million (FY 2014 constant dollars) for research, development, testing, evaluation, and all planned increments. A program may also be classified as a MDAP if procurement costs—including all planned increments—total more than $2.79 billion (FY 2014 constant dollars). There are two sub-categories within the ACAT I program designation—ACAT ID and ACAT IC. [1]

For ACAT ID programs, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is the Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE), unless delegated otherwise. The Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) advises the USD(AT&L) at major decision points. The USD(AT&L) is the entity responsible for designating a program as “ACAT ID.” [1]

For ACAT IC programs, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is the Department of Defense component head or—if delegated—the Department of Defense Component Acquisition Executive (CAE). The USD(AT&L) is the entity responsible for designating a program as “ACAT IC.” [1]

ACAT IA programs are categorized as Major Automated Information Systems (MAIS). According to the Defense Acquisition University (DAU): “A MAIS is a DoD acquisition program for an automated information system (AIS) that is either designated by the MDA as a MAIS, or estimated to exceed: $40 million (FY 2014 constant dollars), for all increments, regardless of appropriation or fund source, directly related to the AIS definition, design, development, and deployment, and incurred in any single fiscal year; or $165 million (FY 2014 constant dollars) for all expenditures, for all increments, regardless of appropriation or fund source, directly related to the AIS definition, design, development, and deployment, and incurred from the beginning of the Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) Phase through deployment at all sites; or $520 million (FY 2014 constant dollars) for all expenditures, for all increments, regardless of appropriation or fund source, directly related to the AIS definition, design, development, deployment, operations and maintenance (O&M), and incurred from the beginning of the MSA phase through sustainment for the estimated useful life of the system.” [1] Automated Information Systems do not include computer resources that are an integral part of a weapon or weapon system; those used for highly-sensitive classified programs (as determined by the Secretary of Defense); those used for other highly-sensitive IT programs (as determined by the DoD Chief Information Officer); or those determined by the USD (AT&L) (or another designee) to be better overseen as a non-AIS program. [1] There are two sub-categories of ACAT IA programs—ACAT IAM and ACAT IAC.

With an ACAT IAM program, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is the Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE). The DAE is able to delegate MDA authority to the DoD Chief Information Officer, or another designee. The “M” in “ACAT IAM” refers to “MAIS.” [1] With an ACAT IAC program, the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is the DoD component head or (if delegated) the DoD Component Acquisition Executive (CAE). The “C” in “ACAT IAC” refers to “component.” [1]

ACAT II PROGRAMS

An ACAT II program is an acquisition program that does not meet the criteria for an ACAT I or IA program, but does meet the criteria for a major system. A major system is defined as “a program estimated by the DoD component head to require the eventual total expenditure for RDT&E of more than $185 million in FY 2014 constant dollars, or for procurement of more than $835 million in FY 2014 constant dollars or those designated by the DoD component head to be ACAT II.” [1] The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is the DoD Component Acquisition Executive (CAE)—or the individual designated by the CAE. [1]

ACAT III PROGRAMS

ACAT III programs are acquisition programs that do not meet the criteria for ACAT II programs or above. The Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) is designated by the Component Acquisition Executive (CAE). The ACAT III category includes AIS programs that do not qualify as MAIS programs. [1]

ACAT IV PROGRAMS

ACAT IV programs are Navy or Marine Corps programs not otherwise designated as an ACAT III (or higher). There are two sub-categories of ACAT IV programs—IVT (Test) and IVM (Monitor). Programs designated as ACAT IVT require Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E), whereas ACAT IVM programs do not require OT&E. [1]

 

Updated by Kristin Stiner, March 2020

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