Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)

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MTA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) & Definitions

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Each page in this pathway presents a wealth of curated knowledge from acquisition policies, guides, templates, training, reports, websites, case studies, and other resources. It also provides a framework for functional experts and practitioners across DoD to contribute to the collective knowledge base. This site aggregates official DoD policies, guides, references, and more.

DoD and Service policy is indicated by a BLUE vertical line.

Directly quoted material is preceeded with a link to the Reference Source.

FAQs

Reference Source: Guidance from OUSD(A&S)

Newly added! (Nov 2020)

Q: What are the unique advantages that are enabled because the MTA pathways focuses on “rapid” prototyping and “rapid” fielding?

A: There are three main advantages:

  1. Reduction of Risk and Cost Savings to the Department
  2. Creates new business opportunities and paves the path for more innovative solutions
  3. Acceleration of capability development

Check out the “The MTA pathway’s focus on ‘rapid’ enables three unique advantages compared to other acquisition pathways” toggle on the Overview & Benefits page to read more details!

Q: What is the driver that discourages the MTA pathway for programs with significant international participation? Are international partners an automatic disqualifying factor?

A: No, international partners are not an automatic disqualifying factor. It is critical that the acquisition team evaluates the unique risks to their international acquisition to determine whether the MTA pathway is their best choice.

For example – When there is significant international participation, this potentially increases the complexity and schedule risks due to the additional need to comply with partner nation standards, rules, regulations, etc. in addition to US requirements. Given that MTA programs must be completed within 5 years of program start, these additional considerations may put the program at risk of exceeding 5 years and the MTA pathway would not be the optimal choice.

However, if there is a viable commercial solution that is ready for MTA rapid production that has been developed or co-developed with partner nations, then pursuing an MTA pathway may be an optimal choice. By having international partners, this may strengthen buying power with increased quantities and market opportunities for vendors.

 

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Added May 2020

Q: Who determines whether a new capability/system has joint requirements (i.e., are the Joint Staff involved in this determination)? If it is the VCJCS, what is the process on how new MTA programs come to VCJCS for a determination on interoperability or joint interoperability? Or is it the responsibility of VCJCS to look into DAVE for the new MTA programs?

A: The process of determining joint equities has changed significantly under this MTA pathway. Per statute, programs subject to the MTA policy shall not be subject to the JCIDS manual, so in order to inject some Joint Staff review into the process, the Component Acquisition Executives (CAEs) will ensure the approved requirements documents were available in the Knowledge Management and Decision Support (KM/DS) system managed by the Joint Staff (see note 3 in Table 1 of the DoDI 5000.80 policy). The Joint Staff also has access to all of the program documentation in DAVE as reference material.

Under the policy, the Components do not have to wait for a Joint determination to begin a program, however if the Joint Staff determines there are interoperability concerns they can reach out to the Component requirement leads to influence the program or they can use their membership on the MTA Advisory Board to advise the Chair on the “appropriateness” of the program for the MTA pathway. Per policy, major systems intended to satisfy requirements that are critical to a major interagency requirement are discouraged from using the MTA pathway. Programs that exceed the MDAP dollar threshold require written approval from the USD (A&S) prior to using the MTA pathway.

Q: Will there be certifications for interoperability in the MTA pathway? Also, will there be joint interoperability certifications in the MTA pathway? Or is interoperability/joint interoperability a criteria that was tested and the results of which are in a test report? Whatever the test artifact (document) is for interoperability, will DAVE be the document repository for all documents (including test plans, test reports, any certifications, etc)?

A:  Per paragraph 3.1.c. of the DoDI 5000.80 policy, the Components need to develop a process resulting in a test strategy or an assessment of test results, included in the acquisition strategy, documenting the evaluation of the demonstrated operational performance, to include validation of required cybersecurity and interoperability as applicable. The strategies will reflect these interoperability elements commensurate with the purpose of the rapid prototyping or rapid fielding program.

Table 1 of the policy requires the acquisition strategy be available in DAVE. It’s expected that Decision Authorities with interoperability requirements on their major MTA programs will require JITC certification prior to fielding.

Q: Are Independent Logistics Assessments (ILAs) needed under MTA? Even if not required by DoDI 5000.80, isn’t it still required per 10 USC 2441?

A:  Per Table 1 in the DoDI 5000.80, Independent Logistics Assessments (ILAs) are not an MTA Entrance Documentation Deliverable and are not required to be made available via Defense Acquisition Visibility Environment (DAVE) interfaces. By statute (Section 804 of the FY16 NDAA) and current MTA policy, MTA programs are not subject to DoDD 5000.01 which provides the overarching management principles that govern the defense acquisition system.

However, DoD Components are tasked with developing procedures for their MTA programs while component acquisition executives (CAEs) implement the policies and oversee their respective MTA programs. Components are currently in the process of updating their Service-specific MTA policies.

10 USC 2441 does state that the Secretary of each military department shall conduct a sustainment review of each major weapon system not later than five years after declaration of initial operational capability of a “major defense acquisition program” and throughout the life cycle of the weapon system to assess the product support strategy, performance, and operation and support costs of the weapon system. However, per 10 USC 2430, the term “major defense acquisition program” does not include an acquisition program or project that is carried out using the rapid fielding or rapid prototyping acquisition pathway under section 804 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 10 USC 2302 note).

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Q: Why is it called the “middle tier” of acquisition?

A:  Simply, the MTA pathway is intended to fill a gap in the defense acquisition system (DAS) between the Urgent Capability Acquisition pathway and the Major Capability Acquisition pathway to enable programs that have a level of maturity to be rapidly prototyped and fielded with a residual operational capability.

Q: What are the significant changes from the USD(A&S) MTA Authority and Guidance memos to the newly published DODI 5000.80?

A: The significant changes are:

  • For new MTA programs, the program “start” is the date of the signed Acquisition Decision Memo (ADM)
  • Entrance/Exit Documentation requirements have changed; also submitted via DAVE
  • PID updates are required 2x/yr; with President’s Budget (Feb) and POM submission to OSD (Sep)
  • Advisory Board meetings are 2x/yr or if program exceeds MDAP dollar threshold
  • For programs expected to exceed MDAP dollar threshold and prior to obligation of funds, USD(A&S) prior written approval required to use the MTA pathway
  • Transition plan, included in the acquisition strategy, which provides a timeline for completion within 2 years of all necessary documentation required for transition
  • PMs are encouraged to “tailor in” reviews, assessments, and relevant documentation.

Q: Since the interim MTA policy memo, has the requirement changed from quarterly MTA advisory board meetings?

A: Yes, the advisory board is held at the discretion of the USD(A&S).  Currently, OUSD(A&S) expects an advisory board meeting at least two times per year for an aggregated review of the updated PIDs submitted at the President’s Budget and POM submissions to OSD.

Q: Since the interim MTA policy memo, has the requirement changed from quarterly PID updates?

A: Yes, PIDs are updated and submitted only 2 times per year at President’s Budget and POM submissions to OUSD(A&S). 

Q: Now that the new DODI MTA policy has been published, what happens to the prior MTA guidance? Is there a known timeline for when DOD Components will be updating their policy?

A: The prior USD(A&S) MTA Authority and Guidance memos are cancelled by the newly published DODI 5000.80 (effective 30 Dec 2019).

DoD Component MTA Implementation policies and guidance are currently being updated to be consistent with the newly published DODI 5000.80.

Q: Do I need USD(A&S) permission to proceed with my CAE-approved MTA program?

A: It depends.

USD(A&S)’s prior written approval is required only for programs exceeding the major defense acquisition program (MDAP) dollar threshold.

Programs below that threshold are approved by the Component Acquisition Executive (CAE) unless the CAE delegated approval authority even lower. However, since USD(A&S) maintains the authoritative list of MTA programs, CAEs must declare the MTA program in DAVE, which is the authoritative source for acquisition document and program identification data (PID) for MTA programs.

Note that Major systems and MDAPs are not the same:

Program Type Definition Dollar Threshold
Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) defined by Section 2430 of Title 10, U.S.C.

Dollar value for all increments of the program estimated by the DAE to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation of more than $525 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 constant dollars or, for procurement, of more than $3.065 billion in FY2020 constant dollars

 

Major system defined by Section 2302d of Title 10, U.S.C

Dollar value estimated by the DoD Component head to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation of more than $200 million in FY 2020 constant dollars, or for procurement of more than $920 million in FY 2020 constant dollars

 

Non-major system Does not meet dollar value thresholds for Major system or above Dollar value estimated by the DoD Component head to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation equal to or below $200 million in FY 2020 constant dollars, or for procurement equal to or below $920 million in FY 2020 constant dollars

 

Q: DODI 5000.80, Paragraph 2.6.a states the CAEs will serve as the DA for programs approved for the MTA pathway, unless delegated by the CAEs. Therefore, if approved, all MTAs are delegated to the DoD Components. Is this correct?

A: Correct.  Per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 2.1.b and 4.1.c, only MTA programs exceeding the MDAP dollar thresholds require a written decision/approval from the USD(A&S) prior to using the MTA pathway. If the MTA program is below the MDAP dollar thresholds, then the CAE (as the DA, unless delegated lower), submits the entrance documentation, to include the ADM designating/approving the MTA program. 

Remember that although rarely expected to occur, at any time during the life of the MTA program, the USD(A&S) may determine the program is not appropriate for the MTA pathway. In this case, USD(A&S) will direct the program to use an alternate acquisition pathway.  Note that the USD(A&S) doesn’t disapprove the program, but rather disapproves the use of the MTA pathway for the program and sends it to an alternate pathway.

Q: Do the DoD Components also have to get USD(A&S)’s approval to use MTA for major systems?

A: No.

USD(A&S)’s prior written approval is required only for programs exceeding the MDAP dollar threshold.  Programs below that threshold are approved by the CAE unless the CAE delegated approval authority even lower.

Note that Major systems and MDAPs are not the same:

Program Type Definition Dollar Threshold
Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) defined by Section 2430 of Title 10, U.S.C.

Dollar value for all increments of the program estimated by the DAE to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation of more than $525 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 constant dollars or, for procurement, of more than $3.065 billion in FY2020 constant dollars

 

Major system defined by Section 2302d of Title 10, U.S.C

Dollar value estimated by the DoD Component head to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation of more than $200 million in FY 2020 constant dollars, or for procurement of more than $920 million in FY 2020 constant dollars

 

Non-major system Does not meet dollar value thresholds for Major system or above Dollar value estimated by the DoD Component head to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, and test and evaluation equal to or below $200 million in FY 2020 constant dollars, or for procurement equal to or below $920 million in FY 2020 constant dollars

 

Q: Are there any dollar threshold limitations for MTA?

A: No limitation on dollar threshold currently exists.

Q: Can a program have multiple rapid prototyping and/or rapid fielding efforts executing in parallel?

A: Yes, statute and policy do not restrict the number of efforts a program may execute simultaneously. A program should ensure it has appropriate resources (funding, staff to manage multiple efforts, etc) and an acquisition strategy that articulates the planned transition points of each effort with a clear understanding of the desired outcomes.

Q: If a program does rapid prototyping followed by rapid fielding, do they have 10 years to complete the fielding?

A:  No.

Neither rapid prototyping nor rapid fielding can exceed 5 years, and the un-used time in the one path cannot transfer to the other.

For example: You can’t take 7 years for rapid prototyping followed by 3 yrs of rapid fielding; you can take only 5 years for prototyping.

Q: Who approves the entrance documentation in DODI 5000.80, Table 1; the transition plan that includes all necessary documentation required for transition in footnote 4 and 5; and which documents to “tailor-in”?

A: Per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 4.1.a, the DA will approve MTA program documentation within their purview.   Per footnote 4 and 5, the DA determines all necessary documentation required for transition.  Per paragraph 2.6.b., the PMs will “tailor- in” reviews, assessments, and relevant documentation that results in an acquisition strategy customized to the unique characteristics and risks of their program for presentation to the DA for approval. 

Document availability in DAVE is for advisory board review and consideration of pathway appropriateness; not approval.

Q: The sentence below about transition plans found in DODI 5000.80, paragraphs 3.1.d, 3.2.f , and in Table 1 seems confusing. What is OUSD(A&S) really asking for?

“This process will result in a transition plan, included in the acquisition strategy, which provides a timeline for completion within 2 years of all necessary documentation required for transition, as determined by the DA, after MTA program start.”

 

–  DODI 5000.80, Section 3.1.d and 3.2.f

A: For each MTA program, DoD Components will develop a process for transitioning successful programs.  A transition plan will be included in the acquisition strategy to be submitted via DAVE (utilizing the link to AIR) as part of the entrance documentation at MTA program start. This transition plan should provide a 2 year timeline with estimated dates during which all necessary documentation, as determined by the DA, is completed in order to transition the MTA program.  The MTA program can transition to new or existing acquisition programs for production, fielding, and operations and sustainment under the rapid fielding pathway or other acquisition pathways.

For example, if your rapid prototyping MTA program will eventually transition to a major capability acquisition (MCA pathway) at Milestone B, then the timeline must show Milestone B documentation completed within 2 years from the MTA program start.  Remember the Decision Authority (DA) determines the necessary documentation required customized to the unique characteristics and risks of the MTA program.

Q: DODI 5000.80, Table 1: MTA Entrance Documentation, requires submission of a cost estimate. What level of detail is expected?

A: OUSD(A&S) recommends using the Program Cost and Funding Chart Instructions and Template. A preliminary cost estimate is requested.  Per DoDI 5000.80, paragraph 4.1.a, the DA approves MTA program documentation within their purview.

Q: The entrance and exit documentation requires inclusion of either a test strategy or an assessment of test results. Whose assessment is required?

A: An independent assessment from the DoD Component’s test agency is recommended.  Per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 3.1.c and paragraph 3.2.b, DoD Components will develop a process for demonstrating performance and evaluating for current operational purposes the proposed products and technologies.   

MTA programs on the DOT&E oversight list will follow applicable procedures.

Q: Where exactly in DAVE does my MTA program have to upload the requested entrance documentation?

A: Entrance documents will be uploaded in DAVE utilizing the link to AIR.  PID will be submitted using the MTA submission tool in DAVE (see image below).

Find out more information on the Enter Program Data page, including the MTA PID Reference Guide, v1.0 (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) for step-by-step information.

Q: Do MTA programs need an approved requirements document given they are exempt from the JCIDS process?

A:  Yes, all MTA programs must have an approved requirement.

The DoDI 5000.80 requires that each “DoD Component will develop a streamlined process that results in a succinct requirement document no later than 6 months from the time the operational needs process is initiated. Approval authorities for each capability requirement will be delegated to a level that promotes rapid action.” 

Q: What is the expectation for CAEs to ensure the approved requirement document is available in KMDS?

A:  The requirements document is considered to be “available” once the DoD Component Gatekeeper successfully uploads the document into KMDS. All DoD Components (those with applicable acquisition authorities) have the ability to upload documents to KMDS through their Gatekeeper.  DoD Component Gatekeepers may request KMDS access from the Joint Staff J8 point of contact (refer to the MTA POCs).

Q: What if my MTA program isn’t demonstrated within 5 years of the MTA program start date?

A: In this case, the MTA program has two options:

  1. Obtain a DAE waiver to the provisions of this issuance per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 1.2.g; or
  2. End the MTA program by submitting exit documentation per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 4.3 and then start a new MTA program by submitting entrance documentation per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 4.1.

Q: What funds are required to start my MTA Program?

A: All MTA programs must identify the full funding required (per DODI 5000.80, paragraph 3.1.a and 3.2.a).

In addition, any MTA program expected to exceed the major system dollar threshold will include the full funding plan for the MTA program (to include year of execution) in the documentation, consistent with the cost estimate (see paragraph 4.1.b).

Q: Do MTA programs have a special pot of funding that can be accessed?

A:  No.

While the Section 804 statute did direct the creation of a Rapid Prototyping Fund (RPF), there are no assurances that those funds will only be used for MTA programs.  MTA programs will have to compete along with other technology efforts as part of the OSD data call that distributes the RPF funds. PMs should not rely on any external funding sources to initiate their programs but instead work inside their Components using the PPBE process.  For programs that require immediate initiation, PMs should work with their CFOs to potentially initiate a reprogramming request to garner near-term funds for their programs. 

Q: Assuming that an MTA program is approved, what happens if the DoD Component doesn’t fully fund the MTA program to the preliminary cost estimate they submit?

A: It depends. There are a spectrum of options that depend on the tier of the MTA program and the levels of risk that the DA and/or USD(A&S) is willing to accept for that MTA program.

Refer to your MTA POCs for more information.

Q: Must MTAs use OTAs?

A:  No. MTAs can use Other Transaction Authorities (OTAs), but OTAs are just one tool in the toolbox.

There’s a common misunderstanding that MTAs and OTAs are synonymous, however, MTA is an acquisition pathway, whereas OTA is a contracting approach.

See the Rapid Prototyping Contracting and Rapid Fielding Contracting pages for more strategies.

Q: How does OUSD(A&S) ensure that MTA programs are performing to plan?

A: The MTA policy encourages delegation of decision making to the lowest level possible that promotes rapid action.  Only programs exceeding the MDAP dollar thresholds require written approval from the USD(A&S) prior to using the MTA pathway.  All management, document approval, and decision-making is conducted by the Services or Agencies executing the programs.    

DOD Component Acquisition Executives (CAEs) are responsible for ensuring their MTA programs are performing to plan, whereas OUSD(A&S) is more focused on a strategic view of the execution of the MTA authority.

To afford OUSD(A&S) and Congress insight into the appropriate uses of MTA:

  • MTA programs are required to submit entrance documentation and Program Identification Data (PID) at program start.
  • Throughout the MTA program, they are also required to provide an updated PID twice a year. OUSD(A&S) uses these updates to assess the MTA Program’s progress and performance to plan.
  • Currently, OUSD(A&S) expects an advisory board meeting at least two times per year for an aggregated review of the updated PIDs submitted at the President’s Budget and POM submissions to OSD.

Q: What do I have to send to OUSD(A&S)?

A:  Nothing has to be “sent” to OUSD(A&S), but documentation and PID must be made available to OUSD(A&S) via DAVE.

See DoDI 5000.80, Table 1, MTA Entrance Documentation Deliverables, for what’s required to be made available at program start and see paragraph 4.1.e for required PID updates throughout program execution.

Q: How do MTA programs reduce acquisition schedule and does it impact their ability to mitigate risk?

A: Given that MTA programs are exempted from using the JCIDS requirement process and from having to comply with MDAP statutory requirements, there is inherent schedule relief from having to complete, staff and gain approvals on documentation normally required of acquisition programs. MTA programs should exploit those opportunities to get on contract fast, begin experimenting and deliver capability to the field.  

In terms of risk mitigation, PMs are expected to exercise prudent risk management regardless of the acquisition pathway.  MTA prototyping programs are intended to mitigate risk using early learning conducted in close coordination with operational users. Operational testing is also required to inform fielding or follow-on development decisions made by the user.  

Q: Are programs that exceed the Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) dollar threshold too risky to use the MTA pathway?

A:  Not always. 

Programs that exceed the MDAP dollar threshold may gain the most benefit from MTA authorities by leveraging the exemption from MDAP documentation and the JCIDS requirements process to accelerate learning and reduce program risk faster than the traditional acquisition process. However, while MTA programs may be large in size, they should be focused on burning down one major risk and not multiple concurrent ones.

As part of the Governance process articulated in DoDI 5000.80, USD(A&S) will chair an advisory board to assess the use of the MTA authority for any MTA program expected to exceed MDAP dollar thresholds.  A major component of that assessment will be the level of risk associated with the effort.  Based on that assessment, USD(A&S) may either approve of the use of the MTA pathway or direct the proposed MTA program to use an alternate acquisition pathway.

Q: Once a program is approved as an MTA program, does it have to stay as an MTA program?

A:  No. 

There are multiple combinations and iterations in which an MTA program can be executed, but it does not have to stay an MTA program any longer than is needed to successfully and rapidly deliver capability to the field.

The MTA pathway is one of many avenues for an acquisition program to achieve its goals. For some efforts, the MTA pathway will be the start and end of the program. Other programs with mature technology and a successfully tested configuration may transition from rapid prototyping into rapid fielding.  More complex programs may utilize the MTA Rapid Prototyping pathway to demonstrate technology feasibility (and field a minimum viable product), and then transition into a more traditional Major Capability Acquisition (MCA) acquisition program.  Conversely, an MCA acquisition program may spin off a technology insertion into an MTA program to verify its efficacy before integrating it back into the main program. 

See the transition vignettes on the AAF Selecting and Transitioning Pathways page for more.

Q: What is a fieldable prototype?

A: A fieldable prototype should meet defined requirements that will be demonstrated in an operational environment and provide for residual operational capability within 5 years of the MTA Program start date. A residual operational capability will be considered any military utility for an operational user that can be fielded.

Note: Also see the Definitions section.

Q: What MTA programs exist today?

A:  To see the latest MTA program list, refer to DAVE.

Definitions

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.80

MTA program completion date. The date of an outcome determination ADM signed by the DA stating that the rapid prototyping program has transitioned to an existing acquisition program, transitioned to a new acquisition program, transitioned to a different acquisition pathway, has residual operational capability sustained in the field, transitioned to rapid fielding, or terminated. For rapid fielding programs, the date of an outcome determination ADM stating that the minimum fielding plan criteria approved by the DA, have been met.

MTA program production start. The date of funds first obligated to perform production activities.

MTA program start date. The date an ADM is signed by the DA initiating the effort as an MTA rapid prototyping or MTA rapid fielding program, consistent with this issuance.

operational environment. A set of operational conditions, selected by the users in coordination with the appropriate independent operational testing agency that are representative of the desired spectrum of operational employments.

prototype. A model built to evaluate and inform its feasibility or usefulness. Non-physical models are acceptable if the non-physical model is the residual operational capability to be fielded.

residual operational capability. For rapid prototyping programs, residual operational capability will be considered any military utility for an operational user that can be fielded.