Press Release Is Your Project's Technology Up to the Job? GAO Releases Draft Technology Readiness Assessment Guide

Third Volume in Series to Help Manage Government Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 11, 2016) – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today issued for public review a draft version of a new guide to help federal, state, and local government agencies more reliably assess technology readiness for projects of all sizes. The Technology Readiness Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Evaluating the Readiness of Technology for Use in Acquisition Programs and Projects (GAO-16-410G) is available on-line and applies to civilian and defense projects managed by government entities and private contractors. The draft guide is being released for a one-year comment period.

"Managing technology maturity in today’s increasingly complex, technology-centric systems is a vital tool for reducing risk in program acquisition and management," said Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. "The best practices presented in GAO’s guide should help agencies better manage the critical technologies and related costs that often are a major source of risk in acquiring advanced systems and projects."

Drawing on technology readiness assessment (TRA) concepts originally conceived by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense  (DOD), and others, GAO’s draft guide describes seven best practices for developing and producing a reliable, high-quality TRA.  The goal is to help TRA practitioners, program managers, technology developers, and governance bodies better understand technology maturity, conduct credible technology readiness assessments, and develop plans for technology maturation efforts.

A companion to GAO’s cost estimating and schedule assessment guides, the draft TRA guide is designed to help government agencies develop, manage, and review capital acquisition programs. The guide is also intended for use by GAO auditors in evaluating government programs that rely heavily on advanced technologies. GAO plans to use the guide to audit the credibility of agencies’ maturity assessments of critical technologies within their major acquisition programs.

"GAO worked with experts from government agencies, private industry, nonprofit groups, and academia to develop and formalize TRA best practices," said Timothy Persons, GAO’s Chief Scientist, who headed up this effort along with Michael Sullivan, GAO Director for Acquisition and Sourcing Management.

"With these criteria, program managers and technology developers will be better equipped to evaluate technology maturity, gauge progress, and identify and manage risk in today’s advanced systems acquisition and technology development environment,” Persons noted. “Government auditors will also be better able to evaluate agencies’ decisions about technology readiness."

“Since the late 1990s, when GAO first began to study the link between technology maturity and outcomes for programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter, DOD and other agencies have come to recognize technology readiness as a reliable indicator of program results,” Sullivan said. “Assessments of technology readiness need not be relegated to ‘report cards’ but can be used to manage successful technology development. GAO’s guide represents a real leap forward—a single, comprehensive framework for understanding and using technology readiness, from invention to product development.”

The draft guide lays out a multi-step process for developing a high-quality TRA, explains how results may be used, and presents case studies drawn from published GAO audits that illustrate typical pitfalls in developing technology for integration into larger systems. The guide also provides best-practice checklists for program managers and evaluators to use for each of the seven best practices, such as selecting and evaluating critical technologies, and includes technical appendixes.

For more information, contact Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs, at 202-512-4800.


The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, is an independent, nonpartisan agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. GAO also works to improve the performance of the federal government and ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO provides Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonideological, fair, and balanced. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

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