Navy increases OTA use but is wary of too many consortiums

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Alex Moore monitors radars to identify aircraft in the Combat Information Center aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan.  U.S. Navy Photo 

The Navy has ramped up its use of other transaction authority contracting but there are concerns about the proliferation of consortiums to support OTA activities, according to the deputy assistant secretary for procurement.

Cindy Shaver, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for procurement in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, said she wanted to control the number of consortium OTAs to prevent overuse and abuse. 

"Right now I'm taking a look at where all those consortium OTAs are because I do not want to create too many," Shaver said during an AFCEA NOVA event on Oct. 25.

"I want to make sure that, from an industry perspective, you know what technology is covered by which consortium OTA because if you have to join all of them, that will undermine the exact purpose and create a barrier to entry to what the tool is for."

Shaver stressed that OTAs have a specific purpose: to attract non-traditional and small businesses, particularly when looking at research and development solutions. To that point, she said, the Navy's OTA use increased seven-fold in the last year -- about 120 out of 240,000 contracting activities and largely focused on prototyping. The average award was between $250,000 up to $1 million, she said.

The Navy's goal is to use OTAs judiciously, but it's something DOD must look at as a whole.

"We need to take a look at this from a DOD perspective," Shaver said. The Navy also wants to make sure that "we are not undermining the OTA philosophy by layering a lot of rules on it" while networking non-traditional partners together in a way that facilitates learning and collaboration opportunities.

In the long run, Shaver said, she's closely watching which OTA-fueled technologies will become fielded, with the goal of keeping the contracting tool around as long as possible.

"OTAs have been around for a long time," Shaver said, "But I do want to walk that line where we don't see Congress coming in and again leveling more restrictions on it because we're not using it smartly and then we lose the tool again."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


  • Defense
    concept image of radio communication (DARPA)

    What to look for in DOD's coming spectrum strategy

    Interoperability, integration and JADC2 are likely to figure into an updated electromagnetic spectrum strategy expected soon from the Department of Defense.

  • FCW Perspectives
    data funnel (anttoniart/

    Real-world data management

    The pandemic has put new demands on data teams, but old obstacles are still hindering agency efforts.

Stay Connected