Types of Defense Standardization Program (DSP) Documents

What is a DSP document?

There are many different types of technical documents used to support defense and federal acquisition. The term "DSP document" refers to any document described in DoD Manual 4120.24, Defense Standardization Program Procedures, and indexed in ASSIST.

Commenting on DSP documents.

Go to the ASSIST database at https://assist.dla.mil. In the Search & Analysis option in the left menu bar, enter the document for which you want to submit a comment. In the Document Analysis screen that appears, go down to the Preparing Activity and click on the hyperlink that will identify a point of contact for that document.

Types of DSP documents

Following is a brief description of the primary document categories.

Defense Specifications

Specifications are also referred to as product descriptions. They can be simple or complex, depending on the complexity of the product, the environment in which it is intended to be used, or whether it requires qualification. There are two major types of specifications: performance specifciations (MIL-PRF-) and detail specifications (MIL-DTL-). Detail specifications in an active or inactive status published prior to June 1994 that haven't been revised since may still begin as MIL-A-, MIL-B-, MIL-C, etc., where the alpha character is generally the first letter in the nomenclature of the item described in the specification (e.g., a specification beginning with "MIL-T-" might be describing tanks, telephones, tents, transformers, trousers, tubes, and so on). Both performance and detail specifications may have one or more accompanying specifications, often referred to as "slash" sheets, which may describe unique dimensions, tests, or other requirements that apply to one or more parts and are in addition to the requirements in the general specification. For some older documents still in an active or inactive status, these associated specifications were published as MS drawings, which have a unique document designation beginning with the letters "MS."

Defense Standards

Defense standards are commonly referred to as MIL standards. There are five different types: standard practices, interface standards, design criteria standards, test method standards, and manufacturing process standards.

Data Item Descriptions

A data item description is a standardization document that defines the data required of a contractor. The document specifically defines the data content, format, and intended use.

Federal standards, federal specifications, and commercial item descriptions

The Federal Acquisition Services within the General Services Administration (GSA/FAS) publishes the procedures governing these categories of documents in the Federal Standardization Manual. Commercial item descriptions are simpilfied specifications that describe commercially available items. Although DoD prepares only a very few federal standards, DoD Preparing Activities publish about half of all active and inactive federal specifications and the vast majority of CIDs. Federal specifications usually begin with one, two, or three alpha characters, followed by a dash, another alpha character, another dash, and then a number. CIDs always begin with the designation A-A- followed by a unique number.

Non-government Standards (NGS)

Non-government standards are developed, established, coordinated, and approved by private sector organizations with wide membership using a consensus process. Except when inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical, section 12(d) of Public Law 104-113 requires that federal agencies use NGSs in lieu of government specifications and standards.

International Standardization Agreements (ISAs)

ISAs are developed by multinational treaty organizations to promote equipment interoperability and commonality among U.S. allies. Since interoperability among the allies is one of the key priorities in the DoD, preference should be given to using U.S.-ratified ISAs or the national document that implements the ISA. The national implementing document may be an NGS or any type of federal or defense specification or standard.