Middle Tier Guiding Principles

Guiding Principles


The guidance for the programs may provide for any of the following streamlined procedures:

  • The SAE of the military department concerned shall appoint a PM for such program from among candidates from among civilian employees or members of the Armed Forces who have significant and relevant experience managing large and complex programs.
  • The PM for each program shall report with respect to such program directly, without intervening review or approval, to the SAE of the military department concerned.
  • The SAE of the military department concerned shall evaluate the job performance of such manager on an annual basis. In conducting an evaluation under this paragraph, a SAE shall consider the extent to which the manager has achieved the objectives of the program for which the manager is responsible, including quality, timeliness, and cost objectives.
  • The PM of a defense streamlined program shall be authorized staff positions for a technical staff, including experts in business management, contracting, auditing, engineering, testing, and logistics, to enable the manager to manage the program without the technical assistance of another organizational unit of an agency to the maximum extent practicable.
  • The PM of a defense streamlined program shall be authorized, in coordination with the users of the equipment and capability to be acquired and the test community, to make trade-offs among life-cycle costs, requirements, and schedules to meet the goals of the program.
  • The SAE, acting in coordination with the defense acquisition executive, shall serve as the milestone decision authority for the program.
  • The PM of a defense streamlined program shall be provided a process to expeditiously seek a waiver from Congress from any statutory or regulatory requirement that the PM determines adds little or no value to the management of the program.
  • “Tailor-in” the information requirements necessary for the program.
  • Adopt streamlined and simplified approval processes. 
  • Structure program strategies including the level of oversight, phase content, the timing and scope of decision reviews, and decision levels based on the characteristics of the capability being acquired such as complexity, risk, and user urgency.
  • Make programmatic decisions at the lowest-level possible commensurate with the DA’s risk tolerance.
  • Tier the threshold for data reporting to reduce burden on smaller program offices. 
  • Preference is for smaller, agile MTA programs able to accept greater risk
  • Risk taking is encouraged with the provision of off-ramps
  • The DON will follow an incremental approach to implementation.
  • We will use these authorities to enable speed and agility, while maintaining appropriate accountability, oversight and transparency.
  • The DON implementation plan will include a series of pilot programs to exercise these authorities and inform policy development.
  • PEOs with pilot program candidates will work with their product DASN to be evaluated for acceleration as a pilot program.
  • I am directing SYSCOMs and PEOs to assess their organizations’ contracting, technical, legal, and financial processes to facilitate the acceleration of programs when appropriate.
Air Force
  • Have an Aggressive Goal. It starts with having a goal that’s over and above your minimum requirements.

    Bound Your Risks. Prototyping is at its best when introducing only one new hard thing and laser focusing on it.

    Be Aggressive but Not Greedy. Your job is to degrade gracefully because greed kills speed.

    Constrain Time and Budget, Not the Final Performance. You must understand mission requirements and metrics but avoid writing down minimum acceptable performance numbers for the prototype if possible.

    It Takes a Team to Go Fast. As you begin bending metal, the requirements, acquisition, finance and test plans will be continually impacted. It takes good old-fashioned collaboration to avoid diffusion of purpose.

    Get a Signature from Me [MDA].

    GO FAST. Keep me [MDA] in the loop. Get ready for Procurement/Fielding. Steal time from the enemy.


First and foremost, the intent of an MTA is to prototype and/or field required capability on an accelerated schedule at a reduced MTAs are aligned with a high priority military capability need and are characterized by execution against a statutory schedule: rapid prototyping efforts must be complete within five years of an approved requirement, rapid fielding efforts shall begin production within six months and complete fielding within five years of an approved requirement.

Note that there are no dollar thresholds or Acquisition Category (ACAT) thresholds associated with the MTA authority.

Approved MTA efforts are not classified as Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) regardless of dollar value and are not subject to the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS) manual and DoD Directive 5000.01, "The Defense Acquisition System," or DoD Instruction 5000.02, "Operation of the Defense Acquisition System," except to the extent specifically provided in the implementing guidance. MTA applies to two distinct pathways:

Rapid Prototyping: shall provide for the use of innovative technologies to rapidly develop prototypes to demonstrate or evaluate new capabilities, operational concepts or meet emerging military needs. The objective of acquisition efforts under the rapid prototyping pathway is to field a prototype that can support these purposes in a real or simulated operational environment and provide for a residual operational capability within five years of the development of an approved

Rapid Fielding: shall provide for the use of proven technologies, to include through Rapid Prototyping, to field production quantities of new or upgraded systems with minimal development required. The objective of acquisition efforts under the rapid fielding pathway is to begin production within six months and complete fielding of an Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC) defined capability increment within five years of the development of an approved requirement.

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