Materiel, more commonly matériel in US English

Wikipedia entry on “Materiel”

Materiel comes from the French, hence the accented e (which, despite the dictionary definitions cited by Wikipedia, isn’t commonly used in practice). Do a something search for the term and you’ll get a googol1 of results comparing the definitions of materiel and material, but nothing to help the curious engineer or budding acquisition professional understand the practical usage of the term.

If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, communicates with it, or eats it – AMC provides it.

Motto of Army Materiel Command (AMC)

This post will focus on the meaning in the military context because, as far as I can tell, that’s really the only type of systems engineering where the term is relevant2. As the AMC motto above suggests, materiel refers to everything needed to equip and sustain a military force, from bacon grease to BACN.

All DoD systems are considered materiel. All materiel is acquired, procured, and delivered by the Army Materiel Command (AMC), the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), or one of the six Navy Systems Commands3.

A military system may be described as a materiel solution; contrast with non-materiel solution.

Military systems start with the identification of a capability gap, some way in which the current force cannot adequately meet the demands of the mission. The first step in addressing this gap is a Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel (existing), Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities, and Policy (DOTMLPF-P)4 analysis, which seeks to address the gap with a non-materiel solution. The DOTMLPF-P solution may be permanent or a stop-gap until a materiel solution can be delivered.

If a non-materiel solution cannot be found, the acquisition process is formally initiated with the materiel development decision (MDD). An approved MDD means that the appropriate decision authority has determined that a materiel solution, i.e. a system, is the appropriate way to fill the gap. The materiel solutions analysis (MSA) phase begins, during which rough system concepts are sketched out and evaluated.

Once the concept is decided upon, the project will be assigned to the relevant program office under AMC, AFMC, or a Navy systems command; this program office is sometimes referred to as a materiel developer. The materiel developer is responsible for the entire life cycle of the system, including research, development, fielding, sustainment, and disposal.

It’s important for a systems engineer to understand these and related terms because they often come up, especially in conversations with customers. Also, you don’t want to be the person who corrects “materiel” to “material” when proofing a document5!

I’ll leave you with a groaner: Standards documents for uniform fabric are material material to materiel material.

Did I miss a material materiel term? Are you a materiel girl? Can you think of any more jokes material to materiel?


  1. 10^100
  2. Please correct me if I’m wrong!
  3. The Navy Systems Commands are roughly equivalent to the major subordinate commands of AMC and AFMC, but without the umbrella of a service-level command.
  4. My vote for the world’s most awkward acronym, intended to be pronounced as “dot-mil-puff-pee” or “dot-mil-pee-eff-pee”, depending on who you ask.
  5. Learned that the hard way!