Project Title: Open System Acquisition
A particular focus area for the Air Force Bending the Cost Curve (BTCC) is the acquisition of enterprise information systems (IS). According to many GAO and other watchdog reports, Defense projects that aim to develop complex, software-intensive distributed IS often fail to meet their objectives, overrun their budgets, and are delivered late – if at all. These reports point out both the general failure patterns to avoid, and the rare successful patterns to emulate. However, they usually fall short of providing pragmatic, detailed, how-to, execution guidelines. Congress has directed DoD to address these issues (e.g. Section 802 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)) with a combination of modular open system approaches, agile methods, rapid prototyping, and iterative, incremental development. DoD reported its intention to comply. Yet, per 2014 GAO reporting on government IS acquisition, the DoD’s internal processes prevent it from achieving the envisioned rapid IS refreshment cycles.
Open System Acquisition (OSA) is a novel acquisition approach that combines two existing activities: PlugFest industry events and Army’s Other Transaction Consortium acquisition model.
PlugFest events encourage a wide range of industry – particularly companies that typically do not do business with the federal government – to demonstrate their IS capabilities with pre-defined system architectures. Vendor offerings are rated against a common baseline at PlugFest events, and winners are often selected. However, these collaborative competitions do not result in a direct award to perform work for the government.
For more than a decade, Army Contracting Command (ACC) has used Other Transaction Authority (OTA) to establish consortia of companies seeking to provide products to the Army in a variety of subject areas. Other Transaction (OT) Consortia enable companies that typically don’t do business with the government to easily access government work while competing in a very agile acquisition environment – typical award times average ~60 days.
OSA (previously called PlugFest Plus) combines PlugFest events with the OT Consortium model. In this case, the PlugFest participants become OT Consortium members, and the events effectively serve as the source selection basis for awarding funds to individual members (or vendor teams). This acquisition structured is believed to enable award times of less than ~30 days with a higher level of certainty that acquired products have sufficient capability to ultimately be fielded. Additional work is underway to overlay accelerated certification & accreditation processes on top of the OSA process to result in dramatically accelerated time to field products.
In January 2016, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) established an OT Consortium specifically tailored to the OSA process. AFRL selected System of Systems Security (SOSSEC) Inc., Atkinson, New Hampshire, as the Air Force Consortium for prototypes in command, control, communications, and cyber, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) information sharing information systems. To become a member of the consortium, please visit the SOSSEC Consortium website (http://sossecconsortium.com/). Subsequent opportunities will be announced for vendors to compete within the consortium.