Getting Started With OTAs (Part 2 of 2)

By Troy Fortune, VP and General Manager

In my previous blog I talked about how OTAs can offer real advantages to both government agencies and suppliers. This blog provides more information about the types of OTAs and when they should be used. We also provide tips on how to assist your potential customers in the process.

There are three categories of OTAs and it’s important for you to know how and when they’re used.

  1. Research OTAs (also known as “original” or science and technology OTAs) are for basic, applied and advanced research projects. These OTs are intended to spur dual-use research and development. Companies can take advantage of economies of scale without the burden of government regulatory overhead.
  2. Prototype OTAs are authorized for acquiring prototype capabilities and allowing those prototypes to transition into Production OTAs. Both dual-use and defense-specific projects are encouraged. Successful Prototype OTAs streamline the transition into follow-on production without competition. They also reduce the possibility of a future protest.
  3. Production OTAs are authorized as noncompetitive, follow-on OTAs to a Prototype OT agreement that was competitively awarded and successfully completed. Under this statute, advanced consideration is required, and notice is to be made of the potential for a project to go into production.

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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. Read more of this post

What the Defense Innovation Unit Wants Industry to Know About CSOs – Part 2

Stephanie MeloniEarlier this week we published Part 1 of “What the DIU Wants Industry to Know About CSOs”. Here, in Part 2, DIU answers additional questions, which delve deeper into the use of CSOs and possible future expansion as the need for adopting advanced commercial technologies continues.

A special thank you to DIU for the outreach and answering my questions!

SM: Do you think the spread of the CSO process is indicative that the Department is embracing a shift toward executing more OT agreements?
DIU: The past few NDAAs encouraged OT and CSO utilization. As more DoD partners experienced or witnessed the successes of DIU prototype projects as well as the capabilities of the non-traditional ecosystem, we have seen a groundswell in interest to adapt CSO procedures for different mission set use-cases. Additionally, OSD leadership issued a highly regarded OT guide and OT policy in November 2018 to help acquisition professionals leverage and demystify authority.

SM: Why use CSOs as opposed to traditional acquisition methods?
DIU: The ultimate goal of a CSO is to enable project teams the flexibility and freedom to execute purpose-driven contracts with best-of-breed companies, including traditional (subject to cost-sharing requirements) and non-traditional vendors. CSOs provide an opportunity for acquisition professionals to develop a deliberate based process focused on project outcomes instead of a default-driven process focused on compliance. CSOs and OTs in general are great acquisition instruments for experimenting and prototyping new technology, methodologies, etc. whereas the traditional acquisition authorities are geared towards procuring supplies and services. Truly, the authorities are highly complementary and should be used in conjunction with one another. Moreover, the potential to scale successful prototypes into production contracts provides a clear value proposition that incentivizes companies to seek out opportunities to work with the Department. Read more of this post

What the Defense Innovation Unit Wants Industry to Know About CSOs – Part 1

Stephanie MeloniBy Stephanie Meloni, Market Intelligence Manager

We received a tremendous response to my blog posting on Commercial Solutions Openings (CSOs) as another innovative option the government is using to quickly acquire commercial solutions—in fact, it was my most viewed blog ever!

In that blog, I mentioned that CSOs, a type of OTA designation, were initially piloted by the Defense Innovation Unit beginning in 2016. Defense Innovation Unit read my blog and offered to answer more in-depth questions I had about CSOs and OTAs and how they can help solve military challenges. I share their answers with you here, in a two-part series.

A special thank you to DIU for the outreach and answering my questions!

SM: What is DIU’s mission?
DIU: The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) delivers advanced commercial technology into the hands of men and women in uniform to enhance national security. DIU partners with the services, combatant commands, and component organizations to seek out and rapidly prototype commercial solutions to military challenges while lowering barriers to entry for non-traditional companies interested in working with the Department of Defense (DoD).  There has never been a more important time for the military to leverage commercial technology. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter established DIU in August 2015 to capitalize on U.S. businesses’ growing investment in research and development (R&D) and venture capital funding of high-tech startups. Rapid technology developments led by the private sector and the global diffusion of emerging dual-use capabilities are changing the character of warfare. It is DIU’s mission to ensure the Department has a pathway for integrating these commercial capabilities at the speed of relevance to maintain a decisive military advantage over our adversaries. Read more of this post

Federal IT Needs a Culture Shift

Tom O'Keefe

By Tom O’Keefe, Consultant

At many of the events I’ve been attending around the beltway lately, a common theme in federal IT keeps coming up – culture as an impediment to change. Many of the CXOs I hear speaking all mention that to modernize outdated federal systems, the culture within an agency and around its technology has got to change.

That’s not to say that agencies are dismissive of their workforce, or that they don’t value their employees – on the contrary, many leaders recognize that their teams are the most valuable resource they have. But to transform federal IT, to unlock the value of data and to fully embrace the move to the cloud, agency IT leaders know they need to drag their workforce kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

At AFCEA Bethesda’s Law Enforcement and Public Safety Technology Forum, Sonny Bhagowalia, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology at Customs and Border Protection, highlighted the five things that federal IT leaders need to take into consideration: Read more of this post

OTAs and Cloud: Hot Topics at AFCEA WEST

By Mark Wisinger, Senior Analyst

AFCEA West is the most happening event on the Navy IT circuit. The sunny San Diego weather draws a big crowd every February and it’s an excellent place to talk shop, learn about the latest Navy and Marine Corps trends and opportunities and soak up the California sun – despite the rain this year!

Here are a couple top-level trends I noticed during the conference:

OTAs are red hot
It seems not a month goes by without new OTA’s popping up. While the Navy did not announce a new other-transactional-authority vehicle, it did announce that within the next week or two, we’d see requests for cloud and networking through the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) OTA. We’re seeing the Navy continue to ramp up OTA usage and grow more comfortable with the OTA acquisition process.

NAVAIR appears to be the most popular Navy cloud broker
Each Navy systems command is in varying stages of maturing their cloud-broker offering for the rest of the department. But, it appears that NAVAIR’s AWS GovCloud environment is the most popular choice right now. The Navy cloud broker model is rather interesting, given the JEDI competition and DOD CIO Dana Deasy’s mandate to consolidate as much of DOD cloud purchasing through the JEDI cloud vehicle as possible. Read more of this post

The CSO: DOD’s New Way to Acquire Commercial Technology

Stephanie MeloniBy Stephanie Meloni, Market Intelligence Manager

As the use of Other Transactional Authority grows across the Department of Defense as a way to cut back on the time and cost of traditional acquisition programs, a new breed of OTA is emerging. The Commercial Solutions Opening, or CSO, has the potential to have significant value to commercial technology vendors and will give government procurement officers more flexibility in making commercial technology awards.

What are CSOs?

CSOs are a type of OTA designation aimed at buying new and innovative commercial technology. Whereas OTAs are designed for researching, developing and prototyping technology projects, CSOs are aimed specifically at commercial technology that already exists, but will be new to the Department.

Initially, the CSO was piloted only to be used by the limited number of buying activities with OTAs already in place, but a memo released last summer expanded their use across the entire DOD.

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OTAs Are Heating Up in the DOD

Mark Wisinger_100x135By Mark Wisinger, senior analyst

Every program manager and acquisition professional in DOD has been leveraging the newest buzzword: OTA, which stands for Other Transaction Authority. OTAs have been in the acquisition arsenal for years, but Congress just recently relaxed rules and restrictions on their use, paving the way for OTAs to be the new hot method for rapid technology insertion and piloting. The Office of the Undersecretary of Acquisition and Sustainment recently has been working on an OTA handbook to help guide DOD acquisition professionals on the do’s and don’ts of this newly revitalized procurement method. It’s no surprise we’re starting to see the use of more and more OTAs.

According to Bloomberg Government, DOD accounted for $2.1B of $2.3B spent through OTAs in 2017. The Army has been a leader in DOD driving most of the OTA usage increases to date, concentrated in the Army Materiel Command, although the Army Cyber Command’s use of OTAs is growing. The Defensive Cyber Operations office, within Army’s PEO EIS is setting up a new OTA vehicle known as C-RAPID, which will be targeting rapid piloting and insertion of defensive cyber tools. Companies that sign on to the consortium will field between 6 and 24 Army technology requests a year for defensive cyber tools.

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