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This monograph presents findings of a RAND Project AIR FORCE research project documenting lessons learned by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and other Department of Defense (DoD) cost analysis and acquisition community members from the implementation of evolutionary acquisition (EA) strategies for major Air Force defense space acquisition programs. In May 2003, DoD mandated EA strategies relying on spiral development as the preferred approach to satisfying operational needs. However, EA programs vary considerably in their implementation.

This research effort adopted a three-pronged approach. First, the project team comprehensively reviewed literature on EA theory and implementation. Second, it conducted interviews with senior DoD and USAF acquisition management officials regarding EA policies. Finally, it reviewed five major space acquisition programs that have been recently restructured in accordance with EA concepts. The information on these case studies was derived from open sources and from interviews with senior program officials.

The authors concluded that so far the implementation of EA on military space programs has produced mixed results. The capabilities and requirements definition and management processes are major challenges in all EA programs. Appropriate structuring of EA phases with operationally useful threshold requirements and mapping the path to overall objective capability are demanding tasks on most EA programs. The use of spiral development for implementing EA on major space hardware acquisition programs greatly increases the level of program uncertainties, raising serious challenges for program managers in the current acquisition environment. The authors further concluded that EA programs require an evolutionary costing approach; most cost analysts interviewed expressed generally positive views about EA.

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The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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