Rapid Acquisition References

DoD will develop a culture of rapid and meaningful innovation, streamline requirements and acquisition processes, and promote responsible risk-taking and personal initiative.

Jim Mattis

Secretary of Defense

Rapid Acquisition Organizations

Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) – Then DEPSECDEF Carter created the SCO in 2012 to help DoD re-imagine existing DOD, IC and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing, classified capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs. Getting stuff in the field quickly. $470M budget in FY16. Dr. William Roper is the Director

Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) – expedites development and fielding of select DoD combat support and weapon systems by leveraging defense-wide technology development efforts and existing operational capabilities.

Air Force Big Safari Program has successfully employed a rapid acquisition approach to meet the need for accelerated acquisition, tailored according to the product being acquired. This approach is enabled by a culture of urgency, trust, decentralized decision authority, and the wide use of more flexible contracting approaches. The results were rapid modification and integration of commercial sensor systems onto Air Force strategic intelligence collection platforms.

Army Rapid Capabilities Office is the Army’s signature initiative to expedite critical technologies to the field to counter urgent and emerging threats. As a key piece of Army acquisition reform efforts, the new office will conduct rapid materiel development and delivery to address immediate, near-term and mid-term combatant commanders’ needs. Beyond closing current capability gaps, the organization also aims to stimulate aggressive, proactive capability development and leverage disruptive technologies to meet Army strategic objectives.

Maritime Accelerated Capabilities Office (MACO), based on the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, which will create a “speed lane” for mature programs that can be fielded with less risk. MACO would oversee these programs from cradle to grave and include the necessary requirements, acquisition, fleet and legal representatives needed to rapidly field these mature systems.

Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) harnesses current and emerging technologies to provide immediate solutions to the urgent challenges of U.S. Army forces deployed globally. Vision: To remain the Army’s quick response capability for urgent non-standard equipment. In partnership with Soldiers worldwide, REF identifies emerging capability gaps; provides solutions within a timeframe relevant to current operations; and shares information with stakeholders to inform and accelerate the deliberate capability development and acquisition processes.

Army Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) series of Soldier-led evaluations designed to further integrate and rapidly progress the Army’s tactical communications network, which is a top Army modernization priority.

USSOCOM SOFTWERX is a 10,000 square-foot open floor building with the look and feel of a tech startup. The name is a melding of SOF and a stylized spelling of “Works.” SOCOM decided it needed to do something in response to growing concerns that the military has been a technology laggard and needs to create new channels to communicate with the faster-moving private sector. Video of Event

Digital Defense Office brings coders in for a tour of duty. Led by Chris Lynch. The DDS will be a small team of engineers and data experts meant to “improve the Department’s technological agility and solve its most complex IT problems.

Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) will enable DoD actions to counter improvised threats with tactical responsiveness and through anticipatory, rapid acquisition in support of Combatant Commands’ efforts to prepare for, and adapt to, battlefield surprise in support of counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, and other related mission areas including counter-improvised explosive device.

Defense Innovation Marketplace

The Defense Innovation Marketplace is a communications resource to provide industry with improved insight into the Research and Engineering investment priorities of the DoD. The Marketplace contains DoD R&E strategic documents, solicitations, and News/Events to better inform Independent Research and Development (IR&D) planning. The website includes: New Business Opportunities, Technical Interchange Meetings, Defense Innovation Initiative, Strategic Direction, Small Business Resources, and News & Events.

R&D Organizations
  • DARPA For more than fifty years, DARPA has held to a singular and enduring mission: to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security.
  • DASD EC&P The Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) has two lanes of activities. The first lane of activities is the Rapid and Quick Reaction Funds focused on providing a hedge against technology risks and accelerating warfare capabilities, respectively. Additionally, they have an emerging technology development aimed at countering the emerging threats. The second lane of activities in this office is called the Innovation Outreach. The objective of the Innovation Outreach is to identify innovative ideas and matched them with DoD needs. Another innovation venue is JCTDs. The JCTD Program executes operational prototypes to address the most pressing technology gaps facing the Department of Defense. Starting in FY15 JCTD, projects primarily be initiated to develop technology solutions in the four EC&P focus areas, namely, Space capability resilience, Autonomous systems, Electromagnetic spectrum agility, and Asymmetric force application
  • DASD Research -Oversight of the 17 S&T Communities of Interest for DoD. The COI Identifies the current DoD investments, gaps and challenges. The MITRE thought leaders supporting each of the COIs can the mediums for transitioning our innovations as well as being the innovation bridge. The value of the COI activity is identifying the areas DoD is already investing in, and the gaps and challenges they are trying to achieve. Industry can then identify where they can accelerate the goals of DoD or fill the gap areas for a particular COI/Service. The COI provides the S&T investment roadmap but industry partners need to engage with the services who control the funding. Small seedling efforts are funded directly to COIs but very limited amount, 5 seedlings at $500K across the $12B – DoD S&T investment. COIs regularly request industry engagement through FEDBIZOPs
  • Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) – Provides a collaborative vehicle for small businesses to provide the department with innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs that meet specific defense needs. RIF is administered by the ASD R&E and Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP).
  • Reliance 21 – The overarching framework for DoD’s S&T joint planning and coordination process. The goal of Reliance 21 is to ensure that the DoD S&T community provides solutions and advice to the DoD’s senior level decision makers, warfighters, Congress, and other stakeholders in the most effective and efficient manner possible. This is achieved through an ecosystem and infrastructure that enables information sharing, alignment of effort, coordination of priorities, and support for scientists and engineers across the DoD. Reliance 21 Operating Principles  17 Communities of Interest
  • Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) – Private-sector resources, operating in the public interest. They perform work closely associated with inherently governmental functions and assist the government with its long-term research or development needs. FFRDCs enjoy a special relationship with their government sponsors, marked by special access to government data and resources. In exchange, FFRDCs must be free of organizational conflicts of interest and cannot compete for work, except for the right to operate an FFRDC. A FFRDC primer from The MITRE Corporation.
  • University Aligned Research Centers (UARCs) – strategic DoD research centers associated with a university. UARCs are formally established by the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E). UARCs were developed to ensure that essential engineering and technology capabilities of particular importance to the DoD are maintained. Although UARCs receive sole source funding under the authority of 10 U.S.C. Section 2304(c)(3)(B), they may also compete for science and technology work unless precluded from doing so by their DoD UARC contracts.
Industry Outreach Organizations

Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) Located in Mountain View, CA, the DIUx will position the DoD to be more open to the infusion of non-traditional technical ideas and talent. The initiative is designed to create a hub for increased communication with, knowledge of, and access to innovating, high-tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs and their leading edge technologies. The mission of DIUx is to: Strengthen existing relationships and build new ones; Scout for breakthrough and emerging technologies; and serve as a local point of presence for the Department. Articles on DoD Partnership with Silicon Valley

Massachusetts Innovation Bridge connects local businesses, non-profits, and academic institutions with federal opportunities. Through opportunity identification and matching, technical exchanges, educational resources, networking events, and ongoing support, MIB helps you make the most of every opportunity.

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Small Business Hub has nearly 450 members, held 70 collider events and 210 one-on-one meetings to assist businesses and link them with AFRL.

Technology Domain Awareness (TDA) the effective understanding of the technology landscape as it relates to defense needs. It is a defense innovation business process based on shared technology information and related operational concepts and lessons learned to support better technology decision making. Information Analysis Center TDA is building an expanded defense technology innovation community of practice that incorporates DOD stakeholders, traditional defense industry, the start-up and venture capital communities, and the academic research community. It employs a combination of incentives, information, shared infrastructure, and services to:

  • Facilitate the rapid identification of defense-relevant technology opportunities and challenges,
  • Enable collaborative development and prototyping activities,
  • Develop a learning context for defense technology innovation and
  • Link and scale distributed innovation efforts to enhance transition and address DOD-wide learning objectives

See also Innovation Warfare: TDA and America’s Military Edge, War on the Rocks, Oct 2014

Other Transaction Authority (OTA)

OTAs are a mechanism to access innovative research and development from non-traditional[1] vendors who are challenged by the standard requirements of traditional contracts, grants, or cooperative research and development agreements. OTAs are exempt from FAR and are not required to follow a standard format or include standard terms and conditions. Agencies must be explicitly authorized by Congress to use OTAs. Eleven federal agencies currently have Congressional authorization for OTAs: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Defense (DOD)[2], Department of Energy (DOE), Health and Human Service (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA – DHS), Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO – DHS), Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E DOE), National Institutes of Health (NIH – HHS).


  • Flexibility to tailor agreements to reach non-traditional vendors with innovation research development and demonstration (RD&D) solutions
  • Negotiable funding arrangements, payment milestones, and length of agreement to achieve research and prototype projects

When To Use

  • For R&D activities to advance new technologies and processes and prototyping or models to evaluate feasibility or utility of a technology
  • To address perceived obstacles to doing business with the government by nontraditional vendors[3] to include intellectual property rights and compliance with cost accounting standards


  • Risks due to reduced accountability and transparency
  • Challenges to develop, negotiate, execute, and administer due to lack of standard structure
  • Activities/outcomes associated with OTAs cannot easily be measured for purposes of evaluation
Agency OTA Authority Agency Specific OTA Requirements, Limitations, and Restrictions
NASA 51 U.S.C. § 20113(e) No limitations or restrictions.
DOD 10 U.S.C. § 2371 Authorized for prototype projects directly relevant to enhancing mission effectiveness of military personnel and the supporting platforms, systems, components, or materials in use by the Armed Services.

Meet one of the following conditions:

  • At least one non-traditional defense contractor participating to a significant extent
  • All significant participants in the transaction other than the Fed Gov are small businesses OR non-traditional defense contractors
  • At least 1/3 of total cost of prototype project paid out of funds provided by parties to the transaction other than the Fed Gov

The agency senior procurement executive determines that exceptional circumstances justify use of a transaction not feasible or appropriate under a contract or provides opportunity to expand the defense supply base in a manner not practical or feasible under a contract

DOE 42 U.S.C. § 7256 Limited to RD&D projects. Cost sharing agreement required.
HHS 42 U.S.C. § 247-7e Limited to RD&D projects. Cost sharing agreement required.
DHS 6 U.S.C. § 391 Authorized for RD&D and prototype projects.

Prototype projects require a non-traditional contractor and cost sharing agreement.

DOT 49 U.S.C. § 5312 Limited to RD&D focused on public transportation.
FAA 49 U.S.C. § 106(l) No limitations or restrictions.
TSA 49 U.S.C. § 114(m) No limitations or restrictions.
DNDO 6 U.S.C. § 596 No limitations or restrictions.
ARPA-E 42 U.S.C. § 16538 No limitations or restrictions.
NIH 42 U.S.C. § 285b-3; 42 U.S.C. § 284n; 42 U.S.C. § 287a Limitations and restrictions differ based on specific research programs.

Additional OSD approvals and references per DPAP OTA Guide

Prototype Project Cost (Including Options) Non-delegable Approval Authority for Military Departments/ Defense Agencies with OT Authority Approval Authority Source
Over $50 Million and Up to $250 Million Senior Procurement Executives (SPE) of the Military Departments – the Service Acquisition Executives (SAEs) for Army, Navy and Air Force Senior Procurement Executive for the Fourth Estate – USD(AT&L) Director of DARPA Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) 10 U.S.C. §2371b(a)(2)(A)
Over $250 Million USD(AT&L) 10 U.S.C. §2371b(a)(2)(B)(1)

[1] Section 815 of the FY 2016 NDAA defines a non-traditional defense contractor as an entity that is not currently performing and has not performed, for at least the one-year period preceding the solicitation of sources by the DoD for the procurement or transaction, any contract or subcontract for the DoD that is subject to the full coverage under the cost accounting standards prescribed pursuant to Section 1502 of title 41 and the regulations implementing such section.

[2] Section 815 of the FY 2016 NDAA replaced section 845 of the FY 1994 NDAA (repealed) and provided DoD with permanent authority for prototypes, as well as increased dollar threshold approval levels for prototype projects, amended criterion for OTA eligibility, and allows a prototype project to transition to award of a follow-on production contract.



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