Other Transaction Authority (OTA) – How Agencies Are Capturing Innovative Technologies for Rapid Acquisition/Integration
By Todd Russell, CDR US Navy (Ret.)
“We will actively seek innovative approaches to how we fight, how we posture our force, and how we leverage our asymmetric strengths and technological advantages. Innovation is paramount given the increasingly complex warfighting environment we expect to encounter.” – 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review
The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Services are requirement-based organizations. Requirements are vetted through the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) (Fig.1) for approval and are then planned, programmed (budgeted) and developed within the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) (Fig 2). These processes, based on U.S. Code, take time (years) and are not conducive to integrating new, emergent technologies within the developmental cycle.
Figure 1. Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System
Figure 2. Integrated Defense Acquisition Technology and Logistics Life Cycle Management System
It can take up to 18 months from inception to the approved completion of the JCIDS process for major programs of record. If the Acquisition Authority does not submit this new requirement/capability into the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System (PPBES) early, it could take another year for a budget to be approved to begin the Defense Acquisition Process (DAP). Good for aircraft carriers (which are operational for over 40 years), bad for innovative capabilities.
Can the DoD be a source of capital for start-ups, or any business, academia, or biomedical engineer engaged in innovative research and development? Yes.
Since 2014, the Department of Defense (DoD) has put in place new policy and processes to capture innovative technologies and capabilities while strengthening existing programs. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF), for instance, annually lists requirements from the Services and Agencies. Any company registered in the Federal Contractors Registry System for Awards and Management (SAM) can participate in these programs.
The RIF program, for example, only requires a 3-page white paper and quad chart describing how your developmental or productized capability would satisfy the posted requirement to start the RIF process. Of note, both SBIR and RIF are requirements-based. To learn more about these programs, go to:
The DoD has also expanded the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA) to experimental organizations, such as Defense Innovation Unit experimental (DIUx) and National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTxL). This type of OTA is authorized by 10 U.S.C. 2371b for prototype projects directly relevant to enhancing the mission effectiveness of military personnel and the supporting platforms, systems, components, or materials proposed to be acquired or developed by the DoD, or for the improvement of platforms, systems, components, or materials in use by the armed forces. This type of OTA is treated by DoD as an acquisition instrument, commonly referred to as an “other transaction” for a prototype project or a Section 2371b “other transaction”. DIUx has codified the OTA process as Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) which can be expected to be utilized by other Acquisition Commands. The CSO process has accelerated funding transactions for promising innovative technology prototypes to within 60 days of award. The following links detail this process:
With the growing emphasis on integrating innovative technologies, the DoD is changing policy and processes in order to attract new and emerging capabilities across the sectors. Now is the time to take advantage of these opportunities and market your technologies to the DoD. Agencies are expanding their reach, as are the teaming/partnership efforts with larger defense contracting firms, such as Lockheed Martin, L3Comm, and BAE.
In a time when the defense landscape is rapidly changing and our Agencies are changing with it, don’t get left behind.
Connect with Todd on LinkedIn.