The misguided campaign to undermine OTAs and innovation

The potential benefits of Other Transaction Authority are being threatened by legacy IT incumbents looking out for their bottom line.

shutterstock ID: 377287183 By Rei and Motion Studio
 

In government contracting, it is a truism that significant challenges to the status quo invariably create pushback. But the status quo in government IT is inertia, and in a world of constantly evolving cyber threats, this creates greater risks and vulnerabilities. Our enemies in cyberspace are not standing still. Why should federal agencies?

A recent Government Accountability Office report confirmed that for every budget dollar spent on federal IT systems, about 80 cents goes to maintaining older legacy systems. Only 20 cents goes to purchasing modern, innovative and secure federal IT. This is a problem acknowledged across the federal government.

Unfortunately, there is simply too much money to be made in maintaining the status quo for reform efforts to go unchallenged. To be blunt, the federal IT budget is projected to exceed $90 billion dollars, and with 80 percent of that going to legacy IT spending, there's a massive revenue stream that entrenched incumbents want to protect.

Given these dynamics, it is not surprising that one of the most interesting, and potentially revolutionary, acquisition methods in recent years has come under attack. Other Transaction Authority, or OTA, seeks to break the stranglehold of the existing cumbersome acquisition system and enable federal IT pros to acquire technology at the speed of relevance.

OTAs have actually been around for quite a while, going back to the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. Congress and the White House, realizing that NASA's procurement process had to be accelerated if the U.S. was going to develop the cutting-edge technologies needed to win the space race, specifically provided for OTAs.

The urgency of IT acquisition in 2018

A similar urgency exists now in the cyberspace race. The recent "Federal Cybersecurity Risk Determination Report and Action Plan," designed in part to implement President Donald Trump's May 2017 executive order on cybersecurity, says explicitly that "two of the most significant areas of risk that were identified in agency assessments were the abundance of legacy information technology, which is difficult and expensive to protect, as well as shortages of experienced and capable cybersecurity personnel."

The breathtaking pace at which our adversaries deploy new offensive cyber tools and techniques has sprinted past our existing legacy IT systems, which cannot be modified fast enough to make them secure. To fight back, we need the ability to procure new technologies to keep pace with the development of new technologies.

Congress realized this urgency several years ago, when it authorized the use of accelerated (or "rapid") acquisition authorities in the National Defense Authorization Act. It did something truly brilliant – it tied accelerated acquisition authorities with the ability of the agency to take a prototype directly to production using Other Transaction Authority.

That's where OTAs can be enormously beneficial to federal agencies. But according to a recent report, agencies are using OTAs for less than $7 billion worth of contracts. Given how much the government spends on IT, that figure should grow exponentially.

OTAs are critical to modernization

One key benefit of OTAs is that such procurements are generally not subject to bid protests. That's why it was surprising that the GAO recently upheld a legacy vendor's protest against an OTA production award to REAN Cloud, a relatively new player in the contracting arena.

In the REAN Cloud case , GAO decided that the Army shouldn't have used an OTA for production because the initial prototype contract didn't say whether a follow-on production deal would occur (which is required for these contracts). Also, GAO found the prototype phase of the program had not been completed before the production deal was cut (another requirement under the rules).

Certainly the Army could have followed procedure by identifying potential production plans in the initial contract. But on the second point, is GAO (or Congress) qualified to second-guess when the warfighter has obtained enough information to deem a prototype "complete"?

Consider also recent congressional efforts to impose burdensome reporting obligations for OTA use, specifically requiring justification for each OTA production contract and transaction and establishing a 30-day hold on any obligations to allow time for congressional review. These requirements will only act as a disincentive for private-sector innovators and DOD agencies to collaborate.

It is clear there is a campaign underway by entrenched, legacy IT incumbents to curtail, rather than expand, the use of OTAs. These incumbents are looking out for their bottom line, instead of focusing on helping agencies meet critical mission goals.

It is widely recognized that OTAs enable the government to rapidly obtain innovative technology needed to achieve their missions. Efforts to undermine their use is unproductive for the DOD and unfair to the warfighter and the taxpayer.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.