Visit Provides Acquisition Flexibility Information, Processes

66TH AIR BASE GROUP PUBLIC AFFAIRS (APRIL 6, 2016)

Patty Welsh

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.—Members from the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and the Air Force Research Lab visited here March 31, 2016, to address flexibility in acquisition with the workforce.

The presentations specifically focused on “Other Transaction Authority,” explaining what OTA is, how and why to use it, along with some guidelines and recommendations for the process. The trip’s timing was established to promote the Air Force’s newest OTA, now managed by the AFRL Information Directorate at Rome Labs and available to all Air Force offices.

Dr. Tim Rudolph, chief technology officer for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and host for the event, said there was a need to broaden awareness of OTA. He emphasized that it was a tool for program and contracting personnel to execute parts of programs most suitable in an agile manner.

“We want to ensure we have the right tools we can leverage that can potentially help us get capabilities to the warfighter more rapidly,” he said.

The Director of Transformational Innovation from SAF/AQ, Dr. Camron Gorguinpour, highlighted that an OT is legally binding, but is not a standard procurement contract, grant or cooperative agreement, and therefore is generally not subject to those laws and the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

“It’s highly flexible, allowing you to mitigate barriers and access more industry,” he said, while addressing benefits such as acquisition agility, access to innovation by working with non-traditional companies, and technology transition. OTs can’t be protested like a traditional contract. Each OT contract ceiling is limited to $250 million and the Air Force may execute as many OTs as it deems appropriate. However, for any OTs above $50 million, the Service Acquisition Executive must approve. OTs above $250 million may be approved by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Gorguinpour emphasized that OTA development efforts generally end at low-rate initial production, but the authority allows for the transition to a follow-on production contract or transaction.

The most recent use of OTA in the Air Force comes from AFRL’s Information Directorate. Maj. Steven Nielson is the program manager for the new AFRL OTA, called Open System Acquisition, or OSA. He spoke about how to use the new vehicle and presented details on OSA.

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OSA is another transaction between the government and the System of Systems Security, or SOSSEC consortium. SOSSEC was competitively picked as consortium manager, supporting development in command, control, communications and cyber, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or C4ISR areas, he explained. SOSSEC currently has more than 70 members with varying knowledge and skills, is growing, and new members can join the consortium at any time. Nielson said it only takes a one-page online form and a $500 fee to join, so the barriers to entry are minimal for companies that normally wouldn’t pursue business with the Air Force.

Using OSA provides access to an unlimited number of companies and speeds acquisition; Nielson said awards can occur in a matter of a few weeks. Once a program or project office determines that OSA is a good acquisition option to meet all or some of its requirements, they can request whitepapers from the consortium or participation through a PlugTest.

If they choose, SOSSEC members would respond to white paper requests outlining their capabilities or participate through a PlugTest event to demonstrate their products. Today, Hanscom officials, through the Electronic Systems Development Division, are executing the PlugTest process for the Air Force.

Nielson said in order to award an agreement under an OTA, there must be at least one non-traditional defense contractor participating or one-third of the total cost of the project must be paid out of funds provided by non-federal parties, or the senior procurement executive for military services determines exceptional circumstances.

He recommended interested program office personnel try to think from a non-traditional industry perspective when working through the process. Clear interface documentation is important.

“Put yourself in that non-traditional contractor’s shoes; don’t assume they understand the way the Air Force conducts business,” he said, while adding that any support documentation required should be deliverables.

At the end of the process, the industry partner or partners provide the program office with a final prototype and any required documentation.

Nielson recommended interested program personnel get in touch with his office. He can be reached at 315-330-4917 or the OTA Agreements Officer, Karl Vandentop, can be reached at 315-330-4441. For questions about Hanscom’s PlugTest options for programs, contact Brittany Ridings at 781-225-3443. Industry should visit sossecconsortium.com.

Gorguinpour emphasized that OTA does not take the place of other existing acquisition methods; it’s just an additional option for consideration as personnel develop their acquisition strategy.

“Look at what you need to do, and use OTA if you think it would be beneficial,” he said.

In order to reach out to more non-traditional vendors, SAF/AQ is planning a forum with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Hanscom officials at the end of April to educate non-traditional vendors about doing business with the Air Force.

According to Rudolph, the Air Force will be looking for insight from industry at this event on how to reduce Air Force business barriers in order to attract a broader supply base and acquire new cutting-edge technologies. The Air Force OTA process is one new effort to support that vision.

Additional information regarding Other Transaction Authority and the Open System Acquisition vehicle can be found at http://www.transform.af.mil.

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