Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Weapon System Milestone Decision Process (2015-03)
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Defense: Weapon System Milestone Decision Process (2015-03)

To improve efficiency, the Secretary of Defense should streamline the Department of Defense’s milestone decision process used for major weapon system acquisition programs by eliminating reviews that can be duplicative and are not highly valued by acquisition officials.


The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics in collaboration with the military service acquisition executives, program executive officers, and program managers to identify and potentially eliminate reviews associated with information requirements that do not add value, with a specific focus on reducing levels of review.


As of August 2017, Congress, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and the military services had taken many significant actions to address GAO’s February 2015 recommendation to identify and potentially eliminate reviews associated with information requirements that do not add value. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (P.L. 114-92), passed in November 2015, effectively reduced three of the eight review levels for major defense acquisition programs by changing the milestone decision authority for these programs to a lower military service level. In an August 2017 report to Congress, the Department of Defense (DOD) indicated that this reorganization, which will go into effect February 1, 2018, should reduce layers of oversight and unnecessary process imposed on the services executing the acquisition programs. The fiscal year 2016 act also changed the oversight roles of some top DOD officials from approval to advisory for both systems engineering and test and evaluation for major defense acquisition programs. In addition to these actions, in April 2015, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics issued a memorandum called Better Buying Power 3.0, which included several initiatives to streamline documentation requirements and staff reviews.  For example, DOD officials are now expected to suggest options to condense the staffing review process and reduce the content of, or completely eliminate, documents.

All three military services also took actions to streamline information requirements in the defense acquisition system. In May 2017, the Air Force issued its revised acquisition instruction, Air Force Instruction 63-101/20-101 Integrated Life Cycle Management, which permits customized reviews and processes and a streamlined management structure. The Army, in June 2017, revised its acquisition policy, AR 70-1, to eliminate non-mandatory processes, minimize documentation, and encourage streamlining and tailoring. This followed a comprehensive review by the Army in 2016 which identified 17 percent of Army-unique acquisition documentation requirements that could be eliminated. In turn, the Navy implemented streamlined documentation on three programs and designated one weapon system acquisition program to pilot streamlined oversight, processes, and documentation. Further, to facilitate timely documentation reviews, the military services all now use an electronic coordination tool to allow for review, comment, and approval of documents by officials within 14 business days of receipt. Collectively, these actions should help DOD reduce the duplication embedded in its milestone decision process as well as improve the efficiency of its major weapon system acquisition programs, which should help the department avoid wasteful spending.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense
  • portrait of
    • Michael J. Sullivan
    • Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions
    • (202) 512-4841