Disrupting Acquisition Blog

The Problem with Other Transactions and System Integration

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Rapid Acquisition

Person gathering objects into an integrated unit.

When using Other Transactions for Prototype that might evolve to a follow-on that must include system integration, think far ahead of any problems, all the way back to the beginning of the acquisition strategy.

 

A friend of mine used to say that if you are introduced to a new concept at least three times in as many days, then The Universe is trying to get your attention. If that is the case, then The Universe is stamping its feet and kicking the podium.

Over about two weeks’ time, I’ve heard this same situation, all from independent sources. It generally follows this sequence of events:

  • Other Transaction for Prototype authority (10 USC 2371b) is being used to contract with non-traditional defense contractors who have highly desirable solutions in hot technologies.
  • Other Transactions for Prototype may progress to Other Transactions for Production–under certain rules–or to FAR-based production contracts.
  • Non-traditional defense contractors have little to no experience with system integration.
  • Non-traditional defense contractors may fail gloriously as system integrators.

The problem here is not Other Transactions. Use of Other Transaction authority amplifies the real problem because OTs do tend to reflect the type of vendor who is partnering with the Government to solve a problem.  Whether a non-traditional defense contractor signed an agreement with the Government through an OT or through a FAR contract, the vendor would still have the same issues of being a sufficient system integrator.

The real issue here is one that needs to be addressed long before an OT for Prototype is ready to move into a production follow-on. The Government acquisition team who is putting together the acquisition strategy must consider integration from the beginning as well as the transition strategy to move from prototype to production. The strategy can’t be a matter of “Let’s find some good vendors to build a prototype and the kick it over the wall to a Program of Record.”

If system integration is necessary, then someone must do the integration, whether it is the Government, a non-traditional defense contractor with little system integration experience, a different contractor hired specifically as a system integrator, a consortium, or some other variation on the theme. One size does not fit all; however, planning ahead can solve problems before you have them.

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Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are those of the authors only and do not represent the positions of the MITRE Corporation or its sponsors.

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