Other Transactions: Promote Collaboration to Solve and Deliver

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Flexible Other Transactions authorities (OTs) offer greater opportunity to interface with a variety of beneficial program/project partners and establish fruitful collaborative relationships. The dominate workforce generation, Millennials, values collaborative working environments and developing synergy between parties.  They grew up online sharing, learning, creating content – a collaborative effort.  Problem solving, for instance, is usually some form of information sharing among peers.   OTs allow for a dynamic team atmosphere focused on problem-solving and achieving program goals, an ethos similar to high performing organizations.  Industry and creators respond well to this type of attitude.  Perhaps, those bestowed with a bureaucratic mindset, entrenched within the “Big D” defense industry, may not realize that most companies and businesses get excited about creating something, it turns them on.  Other Transactions authorities shift the focus away from a compliance mindset to that of facilitation and accomplishing goals.  However, the potential of Other Transactions authorities can only be realized if people wake up, shed misinformation, and get smart.

Other Transactions authorities were developed at the end of the last century and intended to be an acquisition alternative for the 21st century to advance science and technology and field new capability more effectively.  These authorities are next generation (leveling up) to empower mission-oriented teams to devise the best strategy to achieve program goals.  These acquisition authorities break down non-value-added barriers and enable synergistic relationships and business arrangements for the purposes of solving complex critical challenges and delivering new capability.  Incremental change and hacking the rules-based purchasing system, “the big buyer mentality,” is not working to efficiently and effectively facilitate the innovation and technological advancement needed in the 2020’s and beyond.  Science and technology innovation drive the national economy, investments in these need payoffs; not to be relegated to the backseat behind bureaucratic dysfunction.  Right?  The warfighter, taxpayer, national security, and the industrial base continue to be poorly served by the traditional acquisition system.  There are reports and studies numbering in the hundreds spanning decades all unanimous – the system sucks!

In 2016 Congress codified 2371(b), providing an alternative acquisition pathway for prototype projects to seamlessly transition through follow-on production totally outside of the FAR-based highly regulated purchasing system.  Meaning none of those (FAR) rules apply, it is a different world. Two years later, Congress directed the SECDEF and service secretaries to make OTs a ‘preference’ for prototype projects and to educate ‘management, technical, and contracting’ personnel involved in these types of projects.  Neither has been done.  It is time for more than what the Packard Commission in 1986 called the “cost too much, takes too long” system, and recent 809 Panel said “has only gotten worse.”  Other Transactions authorities provide the core of an ALTERNATIVE.  With the right thinking and education, the Federal Government can help FACILITATE the Nation regaining and retaining its mojo.  Acquisition impotency, fueled by bureaucratic old think, needs to be jettisoned for new strategies and alternatives, a paradigm shift.

Other Transactions allow for excellence in business and capability development.  The authorities offer hope as an alternative to the late-stage bureaucratic acquisition system hurdling toward entropy and handicapping a Nation.  It will not happen overnight, but it behooves Millennials, the future leaders, to explore and learn new ways of tackling challenges and achieving mission goals.  In the case of Other Transactions, there is much to be invented and policy is lightyears ahead of practice.

“OTs are FAR out!”


written by Christian Dunn, Managing Partner, Strategic Institute for Innovation in Government Contracting (lifelong entrepreneur, small business and non-profit manager, and investor who has been looking behind the defense acquisition curtain with disbelief for five years)