This dissertation investigates the role of the system effectiveness methodology in acquiring and sustaining U.S. military weapons systems from 1958 to 2021. The period of interest has seen numerous changes in both the acquisition process and the application of system effectiveness to acquisition and sustainment. Several of the changes were disruptive, including shifting acquisition and sustainment to a commercial paradigm and completely overhauling the approach to acquiring new systems. The method of inquiry integrated three qualitative methods–structured literature review, grounded theory analysis, and historiography–into an innovative approach for investigating the changes to system effectiveness. The database for the investigation was the literature related to system effectiveness as derived from a structured literature review. Grounded theory analysis of the database supported by a historiographical analysis of the timeline identified five epochs, each initiated by a change in the acquisition process. This dissertation reports three conclusions. The first conclusion is that system effectiveness is now a definition vice a methodology. The outcome of the grounded theory analysis suggests that the system effectiveness concept did not mature because of changes that marked the beginning of the second epoch. Second, the original system effectiveness models may be relevant for today’s problems by correcting inconsistencies and incorporating a single system effectiveness model into modern system engineering. Further, the methodology provides the basis for a structured and integrated approach for utilizing system effectiveness in emerging U.S. defense system acquisition and sustainment challenges. Finally, based on over 700 sources, this dissertation is the most comprehensive research on systems effectiveness ever published.

Degree Date

Fall 12-17-2022

Document Type


Degree Name



Operations Research and Engineering Management


Jerrell Stracener, Ph.D.

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License