Getting Started With OTAs (Part 1 of 2)

By Troy Fortune, VP and General Manager

An OTA (Other Transaction Authority) can be a powerful alternative to a traditional contract vehicle. OTAs have been in use for years but they have become more popular since Congress relaxed rules and restrictions. In fact, Bloomberg reports that government spending on OTAs increased almost eight-fold from FY15-FY19, from $1B to $7.8B. This includes all OTAs, not just for information technology solutions.

OTAs can provide a rapid way to deliver solutions the government needs. This can be an especially valuable tool for government to acquire technology from companies that may offer cutting edge or emerging technologies but are not set up to do business with the government.

The speed with which OTAs can be executed is a real benefit. On its website, DOD cited  the example of how the Air Mobility Command was able to “take a requirement and turn it into a product in just 95 days, when the process might normally take more than a year to complete.”

Many of our suppliers have asked for our help in understanding how OTAs work and how to navigate the process. Here is some basic information to get you thinking about whether or not this might be something your company should pursue.

What is an OTA?

An OTA is a streamlined and non-traditional way for the government to obtain new technology solutions, research and prototyping activities from industry and academia. OTAs were born out of the need to give NASA and other agencies the flexibility to engage with and work with non-traditional companies that would otherwise not be able to do business with the government. OTAs provide government with access to state-of-the-art technology solutions while allowing suppliers and government to create agreements that can be tailored to specific projects.

Who is authorized to use OTAs?

While a large part of the OTA spending can be attributed to the Department of Defense ($7.5B in FY2019), certain civilian agencies are also authorized to utilize OTAs, including:

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO)
  • DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E)

HHS is the big spender in civilian government right now. So far in FY20, they have awarded approximately $713M for treatment and vaccines for COVID-19. TSA is another top agency and has used OTAs to acquire airport security technology.

OTAs can offer real advantages to government agencies. In addition to accessing new technologies from non-traditional sources, agencies can develop customized agreements, which enable them to work with companies they may not previously engaged with. The agreements are generally more flexible, can be completed more quickly and are simpler to execute.

In part 2 of this blog series, we discuss the types of OTAs and the role of the consortiums. We also give you some tips on how to approach your customer to have a discussion about whether OTAs would be an appropriate means to acquire solutions to meet their requirements.


To find out more about how immixGroup help you, visit our OTA webpage.

Keep on top of the latest trends in government IT. Subscribe to immixGroup’s Government Sales Insider blog today.

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