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How to Perform Root Cause Analysis for DCMA Audits

A low shot of a tree with mangled roots. The text overlay reads: Get to the root of it: how to perform Root Cause Analysis.

You received a Corrective Action Request, and you need to fix the non-compliance ASAP.

Well, in order to fix a problem, you need to understand what’s causing it.

Thus: you may need to conduct a Root Cause Analysis.

Today, we’re going to explain:

  • What a RCA is and what its purpose is
  • Exactly how to perform a RCA
  • The methodology behind RCA
  • How to submit the RCA
  • Next steps

Let’s get to the root of it.

What is a Root Cause Analysis?

According to the DCMA manual,

“It is DCMA policy to perform root cause analysis (RCA) and develop corrective action plans (CAPs) when the IG-I&E or external reviewing organizations identify Level II or higher non-compliances. Effective RCA will identify the basic cause or causes that when corrected will prevent reoccurrence of the finding.”

How do I perform a Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis is a procedure a contractor performs in order to analyze the cause of non-compliance that lead to a Corrective Action Request. RCA is performed in order to prevent non-compliance from happening again.

You are required to perform RCA for each Level II finding.

You should perform Root Cause Analysis based on Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology. We specifically suggest using the DMAIC process for Root Cause Analysis.

Oh, no! Too many acronyms!

Yes, I know all of these acronyms can be overwhelming. But don’t worry about the alphabet soup; we’ll clarify what CPI, LSS, and DMAIC mean.

And better yet, we’ll explain the useful parts that will help you perform Root Cause Analysis.

What are CPI and LSS?

Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) methodology is a Department of Defense evolution of Lean methodology. Lean methodology and its descendants emphasize the reduction of waste in an organization or business. CPI specifically focuses on increasing efficiency to better support United States military readiness.

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a part of the Depart of Defense’s LSS CPI effort. The DoD uses LSS alongside CPI to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The DoD has a guidebook that explains CPI and LSS and how to implement them.

The first section of a table explaining each CPI step and the action associated with it. The steps shown are Develop vision, mission and strategy, and conduct a value stream analysis.
Table found here.
The second section of a table explaining each CPI step and the action associated with it. The steps shown are Develop structure and behavior, align and deploy goals, develop an operational plan, implement  the operation plan, monitor progress, and focus on CPI.

Table found here.

You can also get assistance from a LSS Green/Black Belt if you need additional help implementing this methodology.

What is DMAIC?

The Lean Six Sigma DMAIC is a process within the CPI and LSS methodologies. It works well to perform a Root Cause Analysis because it is a data-driven process focused on improving business problems.

The DMAIC process is defined as:

  1. Define the problem. Establish its impact and severity as well.
  2. Measure and gather data about the problem, including a baseline of the process.
  3. Analyze and identify what is causing the problem. When identifying a cause, look deeper into the cause (5 Why’s).
  4. Improve by brainstorming possible solutions and choose a practical solution. Then implement the solution.
  5. Control the problem by monitoring to ensure the problem does not reoccur.

An example of DMAIC for RCA

Here is an example of what the DMAIC process would look like for a Government Contractor.

Let’s say that that the government contractor has received a CAR due to improper government property management. Several pieces of important equipment have gotten lost, increasing costs and leading to delays in production.

The government contractor needs to perform RCA to determine why this equipment is getting lost.


First, they define the problem. They decide the problem is in chain-of-custody management for equipment. They state that this leads to delays and could cause severe problems in the future.


Next, they gather data about the missing equipment. They look through records to determine how long this has been happening, and if there are any common factors that may help them determine a cause.


Now that they have all the data they need, they analyze the problem. After a long meeting, they decide that chain-of-custody is not being tracked properly because their current tracking methods are difficult for new workers to understand.


The contractor now knows exactly what led to non-compliance. Their team decides they will update their chain-of-custody tracking method to make it easier to understand. They will also train all new workers on the new tracking method.


The team regularly evaluates if the new method and training is working. They sometimes make adjustments to the programs if needed. They may even go through the DMAIC process again if they decide something isn’t working.

How do I submit the RCA?

You’ve worked with your team and maybe outside experts to find the root cause of non-compliance. Congratulations! The hard part of the RCA is over. Now it’s time to submit the Root Cause Analysis.

Generally, you will use the Agency Corrective Action Plan (CAP) Tracking tool to submit your RCA. You’ll annotate a summary of the RCA in the RCA column in the Agency CAP Tracking tool. You should also enter the completion date in the RCA completion date column.

(If you don’t want to use the Agency CAP Tracking tool, you can attach the RCA document(s) to the list item.)

Once you’ve done that, let the Region/HQ Component Point of Contact know that you have submitted the RCA.

What happens after I submit the RCA?

The DCMA states that RCAs are due within 30 calendar days of the CAP Tasking notification. The manual further explains how the RCA and CAP are assessed after you submit them.

Now is the time to create a Corrective Action Plan that addresses what you found in the Root Cause Analysis. Our blog post on how to respond to a CAR provides a good outline of how to create a CAP.

A screenshot of the timeline for Root Cause Analysis. The reviewing organization has 30 calendar days after receiving Tasking Memorandum to submit RCA.
Screenshot taken from DCMA Manual here.

Now that you’ve submitted the RCA, you’re on your way to managing that Corrective Action Request.

A Corrective Action Process Flowchart.
Screenshot taken from DCMA Manual here.

We hope this guide made performing Root Cause Analysis a little easier to manage.

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