Acquisition Systems Engineering


MITRE systems engineers (SEs) perform systems engineering activities in various contexts. This includes support to field users, operational headquarters, acquisition agencies and program offices, policy and oversight organizations, as well as independent efforts of all forms (e.g., red teams, blue teams) across a range of collaborating stakeholders, such as other Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), industry, and academia. SEs are expected to adapt systems engineering principles to these different environments.

MITRE SEs are expected to work with the government customer to plan and manage the overall FFRDC systems engineering activities to support government acquisition efforts. They plan and technically manage MITRE systems engineering efforts, and sometimes those of others, for projects and programs throughout the system life cycle. For systems engineering activities that cut across multiple phases of a government program or activity, MITRE systems engineers are expected to make connections among them and plan and manage their execution.

The focus of this section is on applying MITRE systems engineering support to government acquisition programs. Most of the topics and articles are directed exclusively to the subject of acquisition. The others apply to systems engineering in support of government activities that include but go beyond acquisition.


Many processes and models have emerged to guide the execution of systems engineering activities in government acquisition processes. Over time, important best practice themes have emerged. They can be found throughout this section and include:

  • Planning and management are iterative. Management is sometimes thought of as execution, although a more common view is that management is both planning and execution. Although planning is always done early in an activity, many of the best practices and lessons learned of this section have a common element of iteration. For example, during execution of a planned acquisition, conditions often change, calling for a change in the plan as well. One of the topics that addresses this is Continuous Process Improvement.
  • Risk management is the first job that needs to be done. Some program managers characterize program and project management as risk management because once a program or project is started, the work of the systems engineers and managers often focuses on identifying potential problems and their solutions. The Risk Management topic in this section provides guidance on this aspect of systems engineering. The risk identification and mitigation theme also appears in other articles of the SE Guide. Examples include Competitive Prototyping and Systems Engineering Strategies for Uncertainty and Complexity.
  • Think "enterprise." Most programs being developed or undergoing significant modifications are already interfacing to a number of other systems, networks, databases, and data sources over the web, or are part of a family or system of systems. Explore the Enterprise Engineering section to gain more knowledge on how to approach systems engineering for these cases, and fold that thinking into the acquisition systems engineering efforts you are undertaking. For example, the Transformation Planning and Organizational Change topic explores the criticality of stakeholders as champions to program success.

The topics addressed in this section are summarized below.

Acquisition Program Planning

Acquisition is the conceptualization, initiation, design, development, test, contracting, production, deployment, logistic support, modification, and disposal of systems, supplies, products, or services (including construction) to satisfy agency/department needs, intended for use in or in support of that organization's mission.

Acquisition program planning is concerned with the acquisition-related coordination and integration efforts undertaken to meet agency or department needs. The scope and type of the systems engineering support MITRE provides is determined by where along the spectrum—from purchasing commodity to major development—the supported acquisition effort falls. MITRE systems engineers are expected to understand the central role that systems engineering plays in effectively managing acquisition programs (or projects). Because systems engineering and program management are so inextricably linked, MITRE systems engineers need to be cognizant of program management challenges and issues. MITRE systems engineers may be required to assist in planning the technical work; create, staff, and direct a team or organization to do the work; monitor progress against the plan; and take corrective action to control and redirect the work when needed. The Acquisition Program Planning topic contains articles on Performing Analysis of Alternatives, Acquisition Management Metrics, Assessing Technical Maturity, Technology Planning, Life-Cycle Cost Estimation, and Integrated Master Schedule/Integrated Master Plan Application, Performance Engineering, and Comparison of Investment Analyses.

Source Selection Preparation and Evaluation

The purpose of source selection is to prepare for a government solicitation, evaluate responses to the solicitation, and select one or more contractors for delivery of a product or service. MITRE systems engineers are expected to create technical and engineering portions of request for proposal (RFP) documentation (requirements documents, statement of work, evaluation criteria) and to assist in the technical evaluation of bidders. The technical evaluation is an assessment of the degree to which proposed solutions or courses of action will provide the capabilities required to meet the government's needs. This role includes conducting assessments of risk inherent in proposed solutions, including strategies for acquiring (or implementing) them, and identifying actionable options for mitigating those risks. The Source Selection Preparation and Evaluation topic contains articles on Picking the Right Contractor and RFP Preparation and Source Selection.

Program Acquisition Strategy Formulation

An acquisition strategy is a comprehensive, integrated plan developed as part of acquisition planning activities. It describes the business, technical, and support strategies to meet program objectives and manage program risks. The strategy guides acquisition program execution across the entire program (or system) life cycle. It defines the relationship among the acquisition phases and work efforts as well as key program events such as decision points, reviews, contract awards, test activities, production lot/delivery quantities, and operational deployment objectives. The strategy evolves over time and should continuously reflect the current status and desired end point of the program. MITRE systems engineers assist in articulating government needs, translating those needs into mission/outcome-oriented procurement/solicitation requirements, and identifying the issues, risks, and opportunities that shape and influence the soundness of the acquisition strategy. MITRE systems engineers help agencies achieve what the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) characterizes as "mission-oriented solicitations" (FAR 34.005-2). The Program Acquisition Strategy Formulation topic contains articles on Agile Acquisition Strategy, Evolutionary Acquisition, and "Big Bang" Acquisition.

Contractor Evaluation

Contractor evaluation assesses the contractor's technical and programmatic progress, approaches, and deliverables. The purpose of contractor evaluation is to provide insight into risks and the likelihood of meeting program and contractual requirements. MITRE systems engineers perform contractor evaluations and milestone reviews, influence sponsor/customer decisions during those reviews, monitor the contractor's continued performance, and recommend changes based on their performance. The Contractor Evaluation topic is related to the MITRE FFRDC Independent Assessments topic in the Enterprise Engineering section and contributes significantly to the process of identifying and managing risks, as discussed in the Risk Management topic. This SEG topic contains articles on Data-Driven Contractor Evaluations and Milestone Reviews, Earned Value Management, and Competitive Prototyping.

Risk Management

Defining and executing an iterative risk management process is a significant component of effective acquisitions and programs. MITRE systems engineers propose the risk management approach that enables risk-informed trade-offs and decisions to be made throughout a system's evolution, and they are actively involved in all steps of the process. The Risk Management topic contains articles on Risk Management Approach and Plan, Risk Identification, Risk Impact Assessment and Prioritization, Risk Mitigation Planning, Implementation, and Progress Monitoring, and Risk Management Tools.

Configuration Management

Configuration management (CM) is the application of sound program practices to establish and maintain consistency of a product or system's attributes with its requirements and evolving technical baseline over its lifetime. Configuration management is required by the Department of Defense (DoD), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and other programs that MITRE supports. MITRE systems engineers assist in ensuring that good CM processes are in place and followed by all contractors and program office personnel. The Configuration Management topic contains articles on How to Control a Moving Baseline and Configuration Management Tools.

Integrated Logistics Support

Integrated logistics support is the management and technical process through which supportability and logistic support considerations are integrated into the design and taken into account throughout the life cycle of systems and equipment. MITRE systems engineers need to understand the impact of technical decisions on the usability and life-cycle support of systems and assist in ensuring that life-cycle logistics considerations are part of the SE process. The Integrated Logistics Support topic contains articles on Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability, and Managing Energy Efficiency.

Quality Assurance and Measurement

Quality assurance (QA) and measurement are systematic means for ensuring that defined standards and methods are applied. The rigorous application of quality assurance and measurement is one mechanism to mitigate program risk. MITRE systems engineers recommend and assist in executing QA and measurement programs. The Quality Assurance and Measurement topic contains articles on Establishing a QA Program in the Systems Acquisition and/or Government Operational Organization and How to Conduct Process and Product Reviews Across Boundaries.

Continuous Process Improvement

Continuous process improvement is an aspect of quality assurance. It is the set of ongoing systems engineering and management activities used to select, tailor, implement, and assess the processes used to achieve an organization's business goals. MITRE systems engineers influence the government's approach to implementing and improving systems engineering processes. The Continuous Process Improvement topic contains articles on Implementing and Improving Systems Engineering Processes for the Acquisition Organization and Matching Systems Engineering Process Improvement Frameworks/Solutions with Customer Needs.

Other Acquisition Systems Engineering Articles

In the future, any articles on subjects of relevance to enterprise engineering but that don'’t neatly fit under one of the section's existing topics will be added in a separate topic, Other Acquisition Systems Engineering Articles. Such articles are likely to arise because the subject matter is at the edge of our understanding of systems engineering, represents some of the most difficult problems MITRE systems engineers work on, and has not yet formed a sufficient critical mass to constitute a separate topic.

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