Defense Acquisitions Explained

The DoD’s Defense Acquisition University created this handy flowchart to clearly show how defense acquisitions work …

View Full Size Chart at Danger Room

And you wondered why the Pentagon regularly makes poor decisions regarding firearms and ammunition? The only thing I have learn’t after three years of blogging about defense acquisition is how little I understand about the process.

( Am I the only one who cynically searched the chart for “Play golf with General” ?)

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Jesse

    At least you don’t have to actually use the chart on a day to day basis.

  • Jonathan

    Looks easier to interpret that the chart for the new health care bill:

    Maybe the two will meet and mate, and we’ll have guns and ammo for all……yeah…..

  • swissfreek

    Ha, I used to “be” one of those boxes (one of the really small ones, way down at the bottom). We had to actually take DAU courses (online and week-long classroom ones) on how that stuff is SUPPOSED to work. You think it’s convoluted when you look at that chart, you should try doing the job for a few years. It was mind-bending and soul-crushing.

  • Wow… it makes the command authority chart for ISAF in Afghanistan look like a model of clarity.

  • Nadnerbus

    They forgot the box that says, “go straight to jail, do not pass go. do not collect two million dollars and a cushy job at a contractor after you leave the service.”

  • ericire12

    Oh Boy! We must must must put gov’t in charge of our healthcare!

  • Vitor

    Kafka lives on.

  • I’ve had years of training to understand that chart, but they make large changes to it every year, so there’s basically no way to ever get familiar with it. In every Defense Acquisition class I went to, I brought up how crazy that chart is, and it was like I cracked a joke about the instructor’s mother or something. They love that thing.

  • aeronathan

    I’m currently being certified in that god awful #$(^&%$ mess and quite honestly, its worse than it looks….

  • John C.

    Hahaha…Oh wait thats REAL? No wonder the government is so inefficient.

  • Jim

    By now, all the Defense Contractors have hired enough retired officers (friends of the current general(s), of course) that actually making it a part of the process is redundant. They play golf together anyway, and have for years…

    • You all who are learning and have had to learn how this chart works have my sympathy!

      Does anybody know how much DAU charges business to train their employees in the basics of acquisition?

  • Martin (M)

    This is why it took 15 years to fly the first F-22.
    This is why we still don’t have a front-line 7.62 rifle.
    This is why the LCS’ are late and over budget.

    From what I’ve seen, all Western defense procurement works like this, snafu. I suppose they’re all hoping their enemies system of development and procurement is at least as fubar as their own.

  • JW

    I also work For the Navy/USMC in acquisition and sustainment. got a good laugh out of seeing “the chart” on the blog. I am level III cert’d in it, and I still have no clue what goes on in half of it. And yes, the services pay alot to go to this class. its also one of those “you don’t have to take tests, you just have to participate, classes”. I just support the warfighter and the rests works itself out. Phrogs Forever!

  • Smith

    I used to work for a procurement consulting company and no one really understood how the whole thing worked. luckily neither did our clients.

  • texasaero

    Second Swissfreak’s comments. There are whole offices in the US Army dedicated to teaching this acquisition system to fellow government employees. People get promoted based on their knowledge of this system.

    Even better, This system was extracted and enforced by laws written by CONGRESS.

  • Excedrin please…

  • Concerned_Soldier

    I learned about this at the Naval War College and all it did was upset me. This is why a piece of the M1 Tank is made in almost every state in the country as is the B52.

    It is suppose to ensure the Gov’t doesn’t spend money on the wrong equipment and keep people from scrapping a portion off the top, but in the end, it delays the fielding of much needed equipment.

    On the good side, some things get through faster, the Family of MRAP vehicles got to our soldiers in Iraq in Afghanistan faster then the new combat rifle that has been in testing since the 1980s!!

    Congressmen fight to get defense spending in their district and this is what ends up happening.

    VOTE! Congress has a 16% approval rating, but enjoys a 90% re-election rate!


  • Jason

    It’s not very complicated when it is broken down. You have to realize that this charts starts with a brand new concept that is studied, then developed at lab scale, then tested and proven out. Then you build a larger version and prove that out. It can take years. Most products that the military have are post Milestone C and are in the full rate production/sustainment phases of their lifecycles. When you only focus on that column, it is much more manageable.

  • Acq Guy

    Yes, this is the WHOLE process and it is very complicated if you look at all the blocks of detail in all the phases of acquisition.

    But, here’s the dirty secret: You will only be operating in one small section of this chart at a time! You only need to understand a small chunk or two in its entirety. If you started out doing the F-22 source selection in 1990, you would have become an expert in that section of the chart. The F-35 folks are not doing deep dives into the right side of the chart yet. Give them a few years after they’ve gone into operations and decide to upgrade…THEN they will have to get smart on that phase of acquisition.