Detailed Military Specifications & Standards
Q: My contractors are essentially component and material producers. They build lots of things that go into higher level assemblies or are placed in stock. They often do not know the final application of the item, or it could be used in a variety of applications. Essentially, they are “Built-to-Print” houses versus designers. They rely on the “details” (i.e., the contract drawings, tech data, MilSpecs, required materials, and references) provided by the Government or higher-level contractors to tell them what is required. In most cases, these are not high-tech items. Some contractors clearly try to do an excellent job while others try to barely meet minimum. Both my contractors and I believe that for their products it is better, easier, quicker, and cheaper to verify the item against detail requirements than performance terms. How do we get this point across to the specification preparers before they cancel or convert a “good” MilSpec?
A: We agree that build-to-print requirements are the best approach for some items. DoD’s major initial concern was with manufacturing and management standards as opposed to item specifications. The objective was to not limit contractor innovation. As we move into product specifications for secondary items (for example, commodities), the problem becomes more difficult to address with a simple solution. While it is DoD policy to state our requirements in terms of performance to the greatest extent practical, use of detail specifications is NOT prohibited, and sometimes that is the best solution. A series of documents has been established designated MIL-DTL for such detail requirements. The best answer is to continue to work with the spec preparing activities and buying activities involved with your commodities to determine the optimum balance between detail design requirements and performance requirements.
Q: My office deals with contractors who do business with foreign countries (both direct sales and FMS), as well as with DoD. We also do business with non-DoD federal agencies. We are reimbursed for administering these contracts. The foreign countries (and other federal agencies) reference MilSpecs (including canceled MilSpecs) and other detail process requirements in their contracts. Are there any restrictions on the use of detailed MilSpecs in these situations?
A: We (DoD) cannot prohibit other organizations from using detailed or canceled MilSpecs. Essentially, the contractor is responsible for delivering what is in the contract, and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) will administer the requirements accordingly. DoD acquisition policies apply only to DoD contracts.
Q: I’m writing a spec that describes a “kit.” Should it be a detail (MIL-DTL-) or a performance (MIL-PRF-) specification?
A: In general, the answer is that it will likely be a detail specification; however, there can be exceptions. A spec for a kit describes a collection of related items, such as adapters, couplings, bags, tools, attachments, or accessories. A kit may contain items for installing, testing, or starting up a system or piece of equipment; it may be provided to equip an existing system for specific functions; or it may be used to adapt equipment to meet new or specialized conditions. If the spec writer were careful to write all of the requirements for the kit’s contents in terms of form, fit, function, and interfaces, and to cite only performance-type documents, the resulting spec would support a MIL-PRF designation. As is frequently the case, however, if one or more of the kit’s components are described using a specific design solution, Technical Data Package, MIL-DTL type spec, or a non-government standard that contains detail design requirements, the kit spec must be designated as a MIL-DTL. The spec writer needs to keep in mind that all of the requirements for all of the kits’ components must be stated in performance terms in order to produce a MIL-PRF.