Disrupting Acquisition Blog

Intended To Be Blended

by | Mar 22, 2022 | Acquisition, Agile, Execution, Innovation

A blender full of fruit & yogurt

photo credit: Abi Porter

My blender just might be the most useful gadget in my kitchen. I use it for everything from soups to sauces to smoothies, to say nothing of frozen drinks. And as a Card Carrying Acquisition Nerd, my blender naturally makes me think of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF).

For those who aren’t familiar, two years ago the Adaptive Acquisition Framework introduced a major shift in DoD acquisition policy. It replaced the previous one-size-fits-all acquisition process with a set of six distinct pathways, each of which is customized for different situations. For example, the pathway for software-intensive systems emphasizes iterative delivery and agile methods, while the Middle Tier of Acquisition pathway provides a faster way to establish requirements, build prototypes, and field mature technologies. Using different approaches for different categories of technology and services is a major improvement in how we do this work.

While the acquisition community continues to exercise these new flexibilities, one aspect of AAF might be easy to overlook. Specifically, the opportunity to mix things up and use more than one pathway at a time. As the 5000.02 policy explains, program managers are encouraged to “leverage a combination of acquisition pathways to provide value not otherwise available through use of a single pathway.

In other words, the AAF’s six pathways are intended to be blended. A program might use two or more pathways simultaneously, perhaps using MTA to rapidly develop prototypes that can be directly added into a Major Capability effort already underway, as shown in the image below.

block diagram showing rapid prototype being introduced at Milestone B

Blending pathways is a relatively new thing, and I have only heard a few stories of this approach in action. I’d love to hear more. Of course, it may take some practice for program managers to become expert Acquisition Mixologists, and that is why we’re highlighting it in this blog post. To help continue your education on this topic, check out this set of nine vignettes that illustrate a representative sample of possible pathway blends. Each one includes a helpful visual and a brief explanation of how various combinations might work.

So as you select a pathway for your acquisition strategy, keep in mind that you aren’t limited to just one. Blending several just might be the key to delivering an innovative new capability.

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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