Analyses of Alternatives (AoAs): Toward a More Rigorous Determination of Scope

Report Number: ANS-AM-14-014

Series: Acquisition Management

Category: Analyses of Alternatives (AoAs)

Report Series: Sponsored Report

Authors: George E. Thompson, Jaime Frittman, and John Yuhas

Title: Analyses of Alternatives (AoAs): Toward a More Rigorous Determination of Scope

Published: 2014-03-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: Other Research Faculty

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Keywords: Analysis of Alternatives, AoA, systems analysis, system boundary, systems thinking, trade space, Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, WSARA


Analyses of alternatives (AoAs) play an important part in the acquisition process. The act of selecting a set of alternatives to be compared in an AoA can help decision makers understand and manage key tradeoffs-or it can prematurely constrict or otherwise distort the solution trade space. It is fairly easy to point to completed AoAs as evidence that many of them have been poorly scoped. But it is much more difficult to spot the problem in real time-or to keep it from occurring at all. This report identifies four principles designed to help minimize the occurrence of poorly scoped AoAs. These four principles were arrived at by applying formalisms from the disciplines of systems analysis and systems thinking, in combination with a series of semi-structured interviews with members of the AoA stakeholder community (consumers, sponsors, practitioners, and critics). The principles may be summarized, in systems terminology, as Focus on Outputs and Think Backwards; Start With the Exterior and Work Inwards; Apply Constraints Carefully; and Iterate and Reduce Uncertainty. The report translates these principles into practical terms that can be understood and applied by AoA stakeholders.