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Affordability: The Quest for Clarity


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The Department of Defense identifies affordability within its portfolio as a problem to be solved. Two questions might be asked. First, does the Department of Defense understand the problem? Second, has the Department of Defense defined the problem sufficiently so that the problem can be interpreted consistently across the Services? The affordability problem is not new for the Department of Defense and neither are initiatives aimed at prescribing a definition. This research leverages the broad body of prior academic research and Department of Defense source data in examination of policy and guidance resulting in multiple accepted definitions of affordability. Data suggests that the definition of affordability is too subjective. When asked to justify program affordability, program managers respond, based on training, with a recitation of approved acquisition program baseline parameters for cost, schedule, and performance for their individual programs or portfolios constrained to the Future Years Defense Program. The data derived from this research pursuit suggests that the Department of Defense considers affordability in a larger Department of Defense context beyond the availability of dollars over the five-year Future Years Defense Program. Considerations include prioritization related to National Defense Strategy goals, political sensitivities, and affordability assessed over a 30 to 40-year planning horizon. This research examines three basic questions: 1. What is affordability? 2. How is affordability defined? 3. How does one know a program is affordable? The study to present current topics in affordability and provides a recommended definition of affordability. Questions not answered during the conduct of this research form the basis for additional future research efforts.



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