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A critical path is

1) a project network diagram, the series of activities that determine the earliest completion of the project. Will change as activities are completed ahead of a behind schedule. Although normally calculated for the entire project, may also be determined for a milestone or subproject. Often defined as those activities with float less than or equal to specified value, often zero. 2) The series of tasks that must finish on time for the entire project to finish on schedule. A delay in any task on the critical path will result in a delay in the project.[1]
[a] sequence of discrete work packages and planning packages (or lower-level tasks/activities) in the network that has the longest total duration through an end point that is calculated by the schedule software application. Discrete work packages and planning packages (or lower-level tasks/activities) along the CP have the least amount of float/slack (scheduling flexibility) and cannot be delayed without delaying the finish time of the end point effort. Essentially, CP has the same definition as Program CP with the exception that the end point can be a milestone or other point of interest in the schedule. For example, a CP could be run to Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR), and/or First Flight within a contract.[2]


  1. California Office of Systems Integration, Definitions (full-text).
  2. Defense Acquisition University, Glossary, at B-44 (13th ed. Nov. 2009) (full-text).