I/ITSEC NEWS: Procurement Officials Wary of OTA Regulations

By Meredith Roaten

iStock photo

ORLANDO, Fla. — Adding more rules and regulations to the Pentagon’s prototyping fast-track process could hurt the pace of training modernization, procurement officials said Dec. 2.

One of the military’s most popular acquisition vehicles — other transaction authority agreements — shouldn’t face the type of bureaucratic red tape that they were designed to help companies avoid, said Don Wagoner, a branch chief at U.S. Army Contracting Command in Orlando, Florida.

“By putting more regulation policy in place, it's going to impact that,” he said during a panel discussion at the National Training and Simulation Association's annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando. NTSA is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association.

The agreements, also known as OTAs, cut down on the time required to put prototypes in the hands of warfighters in part because of the relative lack of rules and red tape compared to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, explained Wagoner.

“Less regulation is actually a good thing,” he said. “It provides great results and the flexibility to be very innovative and very creative in how we get to the agreements."

For example, Operation Warp Speed — a former Trump administration program to develop vaccines for COVID-19 — utilized OTAs to speed up the development process.

However, the contracting vehicles must be used responsibly. If the acquisition strategy is utilized incorrectly, the government is much more likely to regulate it, said John McCabe, a branch chief at U.S. Army Contracting Command.

OTAs are entering a “maturation phase” where more people are aware of the option to use them, he said. The employment of other transaction authority agreements has risen dramatically in recent years. For example, OTA obligations rose from $4.4 billion in 2018 to $7.7 billion in 2019, according to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies tilted, “Defense Acquisition Trends 2020.”

Industry and procurement officials need to work together to help ease the concerns policymakers may have about allowing industry and procurement freer reign, he said.

“There's always going to be that push to standardize, to regulate, and I don't see that going away,” he said. “The little brother of regulation is oversight and that's something that we certainly see a lot more of coming down the pike.”

However, it's unlikely that OTAs will remain unregulated because of the current culture within the Defense Department, Wagoner said. But he noted industry and procurement officials can influence future decisions by speaking with policymakers about how well the more flexible agreements have facilitated the acquisition process.

“My hope is that cooler heads prevail and that we don't go down that path,” he said.

Throughout the I/ITSEC conference, top military leaders emphasized the need for modernized training equipment for upcoming great power competition.

“If we can't train, how do we fight?” Wagoner said.

Topics: Training and Simulation

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