An Assessment of Early Competitive Prototyping for Major Defense Acquisition Programs
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
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On May 22, 2009, the President signed into law the Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 WSARA. An important feature of WSARA is the requirement for all Major Defense Acquisition Programs MDAPs to conduct competitive prototyping prior to the Milestone B development decision. These prototypes must be demonstrated in a relevant environment to provide the milestone decision authority MDA with an assessment of their level of technology maturity. Competitive prototyping in this early phase can also identify program risk and help the MDA decide if there is a good match between the customers needs and the available resourcetechnology, design, time, and funding. However, if the MDA determines that there is little or no benefit, competitive prototyping can be waived. The rationale behind such a waiver must be provided to the Government Accountability Office GAO. The WSARA competitive prototyping requirement has now been in effect for nearly seven years. There is a considerable amount of data on the costs and benefits of early competitive prototyping efforts. In addition, the GAO has published numerous opinions regarding MDA waivers of competitive prototyping. This research analyzes MDAP data from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Annual Reports on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System, the DefenseAcquisition Management Information Retrieval DAMIR, Budget Exhibits that accompany the Presidents annual budget request, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation DOT and E, and the GAO. This research finds that early competitive prototyping has received only partial implementation for pre-MDAP and MDAP programs. However, when implemented, early competitive prototyping has reduced Program Acquisition Unit Cost PAUC and has reduced technology risk.