The Nature and Role of Prototyping in Weapon System Development

by Jeffrey A. Drezner


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As part of a research effort to identify and analyze the range of system and subsystem prototyping strategies available to the Department of Defense and appropriate to the acquisition environment of the late 1980s and 1990s, this report examines the general nature of prototyping, develops an analytical framework for thinking about prototyping in weapon system development, and analyzes past and present prototyping programs within this framework. This analysis suggests that program-specific characteristics and the characteristics of the acquisition environment vary so widely that no generic criteria are apparent for determining whether or not to prototype or the kind of prototyping strategy to pursue. Thus, it is neither possible nor desirable to develop a set of firm decision rules. In the end, there is no substitute for informed judgment made by experienced managers and engineers.

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