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The role of the Government Laboratory in the Program Definition Phase (PDP) environment is discussed. Emphasis is placed on the dual task of defining the technical boundaries of the problem, and evaluating the PDP reports to select the most acceptable engineering approach. The problem of accomplishing a detailed technical evaluation of several proposed approaches in a short time frame is examined, with the result that a requirement for a better "yardstick" is established. Design decisions leading to the final specification of such a yardstick-the Tactical Avionics System Simulator (TASS)-and a summary of its anticipated capabilities are presented.