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Design review (U.S. government)

In the United States military integrated acquisition lifecycle the Technical section has multiple acquisition "Technical Reviews". Technical reviews and audits assist the acquisition and the number and types are tailored to the acquisition. Overall guidance flows from the Defense Acquisition Guidebook chapter 4, with local details further defined by the review organizations. Typical topics examined include adequacy of program/contract metrics, proper staffing, risks, budget, and schedule.

In NASA's engineering design life cycle, a phase of design reviews are held for technical and programmatic accountability and to authorize the release of funding to a project. This article describes the major phases of that systems engineering process. A design review provides an in-depth assessment, by an independent team of discipline experts and managers, that the design (or concept) is realistic and attainable from a programmatic and technical sense.

Design review is also required of medical device developers as part of a system of design controls described in the US Food and Drug Administration's governing regulations in 21CFR820. In 21CFR820.3(h), design review is described as " documented, comprehensive, systematic examination of the design to evaluate the adequacy of the design requirements, to evaluate the capability of the design to meet these requirements, and to identify problems." The FDA also specifies that a design review should include an independent reviewer.

The list of reviews done by an effort and the content, nature, process, and objectives any review uses vary enormously by the organization involved and the particular situation of the effort. For example, even within the U.S. Department of Defense, System Requirements Review cases include such as (1) a 5-day perusal of each individual requirement, or (2) a 2-day discussion of development plan documents allowed only after the system requirements have been approved and the development documents reviewed with formal action items required, or (3) a half-day powerpoint with content determined by the Project Manager with attendance limited to high-level (non-technical) stakeholders with no output other than the PM being able to claim 'SRR done'.

  • Ensure that all system requirements have been validated, allocated, the requirements are complete, and the flowdown is adequate to verify system performance
  • Show that the proposed design is expected to meet the functional and performance requirements
  • Show sufficient maturity in the proposed design approach to proceed to final design
  • Show that the design is verifiable and that the risks have been identified, characterized, and mitigated where appropriate
  • Ensure that the "build-to" baseline contains detailed hardware and software specifications that can meet functional and performance requirements
  • Ensure that the design has been satisfactorily audited by production, verification, operations, and other specialty engineering organizations
  • Ensure that the production processes and controls are sufficient to proceed to the fabrication stage
  • Establish that planned Quality Assurance (QA) activities will establish perceptive verification and screening processes for producing a quality product
  • Verify that the final design fulfills the specifications established at PDR
  • Establish that the system is ready to transition into an operational mode through examination of available ground and flight test results, analyses, and operational demonstrations
  • Confirm that the system is operationally and logistically supported in a satisfactory manner considering all modes of operation and support (normal, contingency, and unplanned)
  • Establish that operational documentation is complete and represents the system configuration and its planned modes of operation
  • Establish that the training function is in place and has demonstrated capability to support all aspects of system maintenance, preparation, operation, and recovery.
  • Receive certification that flight operations can safely proceed with acceptable risk.
  • Confirm that the system and support elements are properly configured and ready for launch.
  • Establish that all interfaces are compatible and function as expected.
  • Establish that the system state supports a launch "go" decision based on go/no-go criteria.


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