Even though Other Transactional Agreements, “OTAs,” have been around for decades, they have gained popularity in the last few years. A big driver was the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016, which permanently allowed for DoD, military construction, and the national security programs of DoE to award OTA contracts for research, prototype, and production purposes. Ever since the NDAA passed in 2016, OTA headlines have appeared to pop up more frequently all over Government contracting news. There is something the Government can agree on: OTAs speed up the acquisition process by removing a lot of the red tape of traditional procurement.
Why have OTAs increased in popularity? It is quite simple; our armed forces are undergoing a sizeable modernization effort. As warfighting strategies change and our adversaries have more access to modern technology, we needed to transform the assets of our armed forces. The Army even created a new Program Executive Office (PEO), Army Futures Command, to solely focus their modernization efforts. The Army alone accounts for 63% of OTA contracting dollars since 2016. The Army’s modernization efforts span from the Next Generation Squad Weapon, which will replace the current M4A1 and M249 squad automatic rifles, to the Future Vertical Lift Program, through which the Army is looking to replace its Blackhawk and various other helicopters with a modern solution.
OTAs have allowed for DoD to tap into the resources industry has to offer much faster. They are an excellent vehicle for prototyping new technology to modernize or replace a current vehicle, weapon, aircraft, etc., but they are not just for prototyping. OTAs can speed up the procurement of a non-developmental item to undergo testing and production at a much quicker pace. For example, the Army is looking to replace its current towed howitzers. The howitzers (M777A2) have not undergone any major redesign since their creation in 1999. The Army is looking to replace the M777A2 with a new, wheeled, self-propelled solution, but the Army is not requesting a prototype. The Army called for contractors to provide a non-developmental solution that is ready to be tested and fielded by troops. Instead of going through the standard RFP processes, the Army released the specs of what they are looking for industry to provide. Contractors then take those specs and propose their mature solution that best fits the Army’s needs. By using an OTA to procure a howitzer replacement, the Army could begin testing and integrating the modern alternative in months rather than years.
Over the next few years, we will see all kinds of new technology reaching our armed forces rapidly because of the efficiency of OTAs. The Government can agree that OTAs provides our troops with the best-modernized resources at a much faster rate.