Traditionally, the Department of Defense (DoD) follows the Federal Acquisition Regulation, a 2,086-page document outlining the rules and regulations the DoD must follow while pursuing contracts. These rules cost both the government agency and private-sector companies they work with months of valuable time in the process of technology adoption – slowing down important innovation for military operations.
Luckily, the Other Transaction Authority (OTA), a contracting tool leveraged by the Pentagon that bypasses many of the rules outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, is working to provide advanced capabilities to the warfighter more quickly and deliver on the mission.
“The government has tried to overhaul and streamline the acquisition process over the past decade through measures such as Better Buying Power and BBP 2.0. However, rather than clarifying and accelerating the acquisition process, the result has been more government oversight and red tape for companies,” explained Dave Broadbent, Vice President of Contracts and Supply Chain at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS). “Despite the government’s best efforts, we’ve ended up with an unworkable system, particularly for the warfighter. Born out of this frustration, the government is becoming more emboldened and pushing boundaries with its use of OTAs.”
This contracting method has existed since the fifties but was expanded under the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Growing use of OTAs is expected to continue.
“Despite OTAs providing tremendous benefits for the warfighter, such as receiving better, more advanced capabilities faster to increase situational awareness and mission operations, some watchdog organizations have expressed concern that OTAs are a way for government and contractors to sidestep the FAR and DFAR,” said Broadbent.
Broadbent explained that this is not the case and instead, OTAs offer a streamlined process that can provide emerging technologies to departments faster, with more flexibility -driving innovation and mission readiness without sacrificing transparency and fair competition. He described further how the expanded use of OTAs are forcing change within the defense industry as smaller, non-traditional companies gain access to the acquisition process.
“OTAs are also driving IIS to re-evaluate processes and how to structure our relationships with smaller, Silicon Valley-type companies so we can quickly embed their capabilities into our solutions. Today we have a pre-existing partner ecosystem that allows us to integrate capabilities often times in less than two weeks,” Broadbent added.
This contracting vehicle provides each military branch with the opportunity to obtain the cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence, robots, unmanned vehicles, and more that can enable the warfighter to better defend the U.S. and its allies from the rapidly advancing capabilities of strategic competitors.