Army needs to analyze OTA use, watchdog report finds

Army medallion. Patrish Jackson. Shutterstock ID: 1570671799 

The Army has more than doubled its use of rapid acquisition authorities to speed tech modernization in recent years, but it may not be getting the most out of them due to lack of a "consistent, coordinated" sharing of lessons learned.

A Government Accountability Office report released Oct. 1 found that Army organizations, , such as Army Contracting Command and Army Futures Command, aren't adequately implementing lessons learned from using OTAs and other alternative approaches to rapid prototyping and research contracts.

"Army organizations overseeing alternative agreements and approaches demonstrate elements of five leading practices for lessons learned but overall lack consistent, coordinated use of these practices," which includes information collection, analysis, validation, archiving, and sharing, according to the report.

Organizations differed in their approach but "consistently demonstrated leading practices to collect, analyze, and validate lessons learned," GAO found, "but did not fully meet the criteria for archiving and sharing them."

While it wasn't explicitly mentioned in the report, GAO's analysis is a reminder of Congressional and Army leadership concerns of potential over and misuse of other transaction authorities. GAO, however, did find that the Army used other transaction authorities, specifically for prototypes, more than other types of alternative acquisition agreements, including grants and cooperative agreements.

The Army tripled its prototype OTAs to the tune of $9.4 billion between 2017 and 2019, according to the report, but grant use dropped 30% over the same time period. Cooperative agreements, which allows for an entity to transfer research or technology with DOD instead of the government acquiring property or services for the use, also declined.

GAO recommended that Army secretary directing Army Futures Command collaborate with Army Contracting Command and Army Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology to regularly analyze data for prototype other transaction agreements. The recommendations also call for the Army to regularly analyze how it's using OTAs and other agreement types such as grants and research-focused OTAs.

GAO also suggested the Army create an archive "to store and share lessons learned information related to the Army's alternative approaches for engaging industry and academia" and that Army Contracting Command "establishes consistent practices for its headquarters to collect, archive, and share lessons learned for research and prototype other transactions, grants, cooperative agreements, technology investment agreements, and partnership intermediary agreements."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, 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.


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