Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT January-March 2017 Contents about half of the software development cost expended before
the program’s milestone B, as described in the 2007 research
report “Software Architecture: Managing Design for Achieving
Warfighting Capability,” by Brad Naegle of NPS. It also sug-
gests that software may be the pacing activity within hardware
and software program developments—a fact reflected in many
of the developmental programs in GAO’s 2015 “Defense Acqui-
sitions” annual report.
Acknowledging that many acquisition programs have struggled
during their development, much progress has been made, par-
ticularly over the past 20 years, to help PMs successfully man-
age their programs. Certain established practices will help PMs
and their teams understand programs more clearly and manage
them more effectively. Here are four acquisition best practices
and resources that are not new but can make a big difference
for those who apply them conscientiously and with discipline. I
offer no statistical data to support them, although some of these
references contain supporting statistics.
Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Guidance, April
2011 (updated). Since 2001, DOD has used technology readi-
ness levels (TRLs)—developed by NASA in the 1980s and then
adapted by the Air Force Research Laboratory—in major pro-
grams, as GAO had long encouraged. Currently, DOD Instruc-
tion (DODI) 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition
System, requires TR As for major defense acquisition programs
at the release of a developmental request for proposal (RFP),
milestone B and milestone C.
DOD uses nine TRLs to describe the developmental prog-
ress of emerging systems as they pass through their prescribed
milestones and phases. (See Figure 2, Page 141.) This common
framework for technology development and common language
to describe the waypoints are enormously useful to acquisition
managers. Before the introduction of standardized TRLs, our
understanding of the progress of developmental programs was
significantly less clear; to characterize our progress, we used ter-
minology that meant different things to different people. Today,
the use of TRLs reduces the likelihood of misunderstanding
whether a developing system has progressed to a specific inter-
Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) Deskbook, Version
2.4, August 2015. The manufacturing readiness levels closely
parallel the TRLs. Ten MRLs describe and guide progress in
preparation for the manufacture of emerging warfighting sys-
tems as programs pass through their prescribed milestones and
phases. (See Figure 3.)
These manufacturing readiness metrics overlay the milestones
and phases of the Defense Acquisition System, providing con-
crete measures of preparation and activity that culminate in
full-rate production. Besides the 10 levels, the MRL Deskbook
identifies nine areas of manufacturing risk that call for tracking
through each of the MRLs. These risk areas, or threads and sub-
Manufacturing Readiness Levels
(as listed in the MRL Deskbook v2.2.1,
M R L 1: Basic manufacturing implications identified.
MRL 2: Manufacturing concepts identified.
MRL 3: Manufacturing proof of concept developed.
MRL 4: Capability to produce the technology in a
MRL 5: Capability to produce prototype compo-
nents in a production-relevant environment.
MRL 6: Capability to produce a prototype system
or subsystem in a production-relevant environment.
M R L 7: Capability to produce systems, subsystems
or components in a production-representative
MRL 8: Pilot line capability demonstrated; ready to
begin low-rate initial production.
MRL 9: Low-rate production demonstrated; capabil-
ity in place to begin full-rate production.
MRL 10: Full-rate production demonstrated and
lean production practices in place.
MANAGING MANUFACTURING RISK
As these manufacturing readiness levels show, moving from an idea
to a product in a Soldier’s hand is a long and multifaceted process.
Managers must steer the development of new technologies and
navigate the risks associated with manufacturing those technologies,
all while keeping tabs on the budget and schedule. (SOURCE: OSD
Manufacturing Technology Program in collaboration with the Joint
Ser vice/Industry MRL Working Group)
142 Army AL&T Magazine
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
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