A tool or instrument is only ever as good as the user, as is the case for Other Transactions Authority (OTA). A sophisticated tool or instrument takes learning and practice to develop expertise. To date OTA has been relegated to specialty shops and considered avant garde, while mastery and virtuosity remains elusive. Wider use as intended by Congress has yet to be realized. Though OTAs have a record of success and have been refined over the years, the potential and benefits have barely scratched the surface. Material and technology innovations are frequently met with fanfare, while less glamorous thought and process innovations developed to support these are no less important. Change can be hard and new ways of thinking are regularly subject to skepticism even when the benefits are known.
Even the most nostalgic and process oriented among us can no longer be contented to say, “Why fix what isn’t broken?” It is broken. The federal acquisition system by-and-large fails to rapidly field new advanced capabilities critical for national defense, warfighter and citizens in a efficient and affordable manner. It has left the majority of potential industry partners out in the cold; missing opportunities to collaborate with many of the best and brightest commercial innovators.
Criticism of the system is fine and well; hopefully something will eventually come of it. In the meantime OTAs already exist, have yet to be mastered and are rarely used. They are not a threat to what is already in place, but offer an alternative approach for those motivated and willing to learn. OTAs and related authorities that permit innovations in contracting and business arrangements can lead to rethinking on a range of related issues. They can be a catalyst for critical changes and innovation throughout the DoD.
Written by Strategic Institute Staff