Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)
How to use this site
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.
Contracting Strategies for Rapid Fielding
Reference Source: Contracting Cone
The Contracting Cone presents the full spectrum of FAR and non-FAR based contracting solutions available for consideration.
The contracting strategies highlighted below may be particularly well-suited for Rapid Fielding efforts as they can offer streamlined procedures to contract or agreement award.
Commercial Items (FAR Part 12)
Reference Source: Contracting Cone - Commercial Items (FAR Part 12)
Supplies and services that meet the definition of a commercial item at FAR Part 2.1 may be acquired using the streamlined procedures set forth in FAR Part 12. Non-Developmental Item (NDI) and Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) are considered subsets of commercial items.
DFARS Part 212.102(a)(iii) further expands the application of commercial item procedures to supplies and services from nontraditional defense contractors and, when appropriate, from business segments of traditional contractors that meet the definition of nontraditional defense contractor, for purposes of enhancing defense innovation and investment and encouraging nontraditional vendors to do business with the government. A commercial item determination is not required when commercial item procedures are applied to procure supplies and services from nontraditional defense contractors, nor does applying commercial item procedures for such procurements mean an item is commercial.
As defined in 10 U.S.C. § 2302(9), a non-traditional defense contractor is an entity that is not currently performing and has not performed, for at least the one-year period preceding the solicitation of sources by the DoD for the procurement or transaction, any contract or subcontract for the DoD that is subject to full coverage under the cost accounting standards (CAS).
Many entities will find they qualify as nontraditional defense contractors because:
- They are a small business exempt from CAS requirements
- They exclusively perform contracts under commercial procedures
- They exclusively perform under firm-fixed-price (FFP) contracts with adequate price competition
- They performed less than $50 million in CAS covered efforts during the preceding cost accounting period
- Commercial item determination required
- Contract types limited to Firm-Fixed-Price (FFP), Fixed-Price with Economic Price Adjustment (FPEPA), and Time-and-Materials (T&M) (for services
See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone – Commercial Items.
IDIQ/MAC/GWAC Contracts (FAR Part 16.5)
Reference Source: Contracting Cone – IDIQ (FAR Part 16.5)
IDIQ contracts provide a method to order from existing agency indefinite-delivery contracts as well as contracts awarded by another agency (i.e. Government-wide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) and Multi-Agency Contracts (MAC)).
- Scope determination required (work, period of performance, and ceiling)
- Fair opportunity required for a delivery-order or task-order exceeding micro-purchase threshold unless one of the following statutory exceptions applies:
- The agency need for the supplies or services is so urgent that providing a fair opportunity would result in unacceptable delays
- Only one awardee is capable of providing the supplies or services required at the level of quality required because the supplies or services ordered are unique or highly specialized
- The order must be issued on a sole-source basis in the interest of economy and efficiency because it is a logical follow-on to an order already issued under the contract, provided that all awardees were given a fair opportunity to be considered for the original order
- It is necessary to place an order to satisfy a minimum guarantee
- For orders exceeding the simplified acquisition threshold, a statute expressly authorizes or requires that the purchase be made from a specified source
- In accordance with section 1331 of Public Law 111-240 (15 U.S.C. §644(r)), contracting officers may, at their discretion, set aside orders for any of the small business concerns identified in FAR Part 19.000(a)(3). When setting aside orders for small business concerns, the specific small business program eligibility requirements identified in FAR Part 19 apply.
See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone – IDIQ.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Reference Source: Contracting Cone – SBIR/STTR
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a competitive program that encourages small businesses to engage in Federal Research and Development (R&D) with the potential for commercialization to stimulate innovation.
Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) is another program to facilitate cooperative R&D between small business concerns and non-profit U.S. research institutions with the potential for commercialization of innovative technological solutions.
Federal agencies with R&D budgets exceeding $100 million are required to allocate a percentage of their R&D budget to these programs. Participating agencies determine relevant R&D topics for their programs.
SBIR/STTR is a gated process with three (3) phases executed through BAA contracts, grants, or agreements:
- Phase I Concept Development: Explore technical merit and feasibility of an idea or technology and determine the quality of performance of the small business prior to providing further Federal support in Phase II. Contracts are no more than 6 months in duration and are funded by the SBIR/STTR program. Typically, Phase I awards are typically less than $150,000.
- Phase II Prototype Development: Continue R&D efforts initiated in Phase I and evaluate commercialization potential. Contracts are no more than 24 months, are funded by the SBIR/STTR program, and typically are less than $1 million. Award amounts are based on Phase I results and scientific and technical merit for commercialization.
- Phase III Commercialization: Work that derives from, extends, or completes R&D efforts under prior SBIR/STTR Phase I/II and enables a small business to pursue commercialization. Phase III work may be for products (including test and evaluation), production contracts, and/or R&D activities. There is no limit on the number, duration, type, or dollar value of Phase III award. Phase III awards cannot be funded by the SBIR program. Agencies may enter into a Phase III SBIR contracts, grants, or agreements at any time (competitively or non-competitively) with a Phase I or Phase II awardee.
- SBIR/STTR data rights protection: Apply to all phases and restricts the Government from disclosing SBIR data outside the Government. Government cannot compete technologies containing SBIR data.
- Sole source Phase III awards may not be appropriate in all cases if multiple sources exist in the open market for similar product.
See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone – SBIR/STTR.
Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO)
Reference Source: Contracting Cone – Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO)
The Defense Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) Pilot is a competitive program authorized by Section 879 of the FY17 NDAA to obtain solutions or new capabilities that fulfill requirements, close capability gaps, or provide potential technological advances. CSO procedures are similar to those for Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs), with the exception that a CSO can be used to acquire innovative commercial items, technologies, or services that directly meet program requirements, whereas BAAs are restricted to basic and applied research. The CSO program may also be used to acquire R&D solutions from component development through operational systems development.
For CSO purposes, innovation is defined as any technology, process, or method, including research and development that is new as of the date of proposal submission or any application of a technology, process, or method that is new as of proposal submission.
OT for Production, IF a follow-on a to Prototype OT
Reference Source: Contracting Cone – Prototype OTs
Prototype OTs (10 USC 2371b)
Prototype OTs are appropriate for research and development and prototyping activities to enhance mission effectiveness of military personnel and supporting platforms, systems, components, or materials. Prototype OTs may be used to acquire a reasonable number of prototypes to test in the field before making a decision to purchase in quantity. Prototype OTs provide a streamlined path to award a non-competitive follow-on Production OT or FAR contract.
Follow-on Production OT Criteria
The following conditions must be met in order to award a non-competitive follow-on Production OT or FAR contract:
- Competitive procedures were used to award the Prototype OT, and
- The prototype project in the transaction was “successfully completed”
“Successful completion” of a prototype project requires written determination of the responsible approving official stating the efforts under a Prototype OT:
- (1) Met the key technical goals of a project;
- (2) Satisfied success metrics incorporated into the Prototype OT; or
- (3) Accomplished a particularly favorable or unexpected result that justifies the transition to production
Successful completion can occur prior to the conclusion of a prototype project to allow the government to transition any aspect of the prototype project determined to provide utility into production, while other aspects of the prototype project have yet to be completed. Prototype OTs shall contain a provision that sets forth the conditions for the prototype agreement to be successfully completed.
Additionally, the government shall include notice of the possibility of a follow-on production award in both the Prototype OT solicitation and the Prototype OT agreement. This is especially relevant given the 2018 GAO ruling in favor of Oracle America Inc’s protest of the U.S. Army’s follow-on Production OT to REAN Cloud LLC.
Prototype OT and Follow-on Production OT Approval Authorities
The following approval authorities and dollar thresholds (per individual OT award) are applicable to Prototype and Production OTs. The approval authorities above $100 million are non-delegable. The value of each individual OT is considered separately for purposes of determining approval authority, rather than the total value of all OTs included in a prototype project or follow-on production effort. Any contractor cost sharing should be included in the OT value. Separate approvals are required for Prototype OTs and follow-on Production OTs.
|Value of Individual Transaction|
|Organization||Up to $100M||$100M to $500M||Over $500M|
|Commanding Officers of Combatant Commands (CCMD)||Commanding Officer||USD (R&E) or USD (A&S)||USD (R&E) or USD (A&S)*|
|Defense Agencies (DA) and Field Activities (FA) with contracting authority; Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)||Director||USD (R&E) or USD (A&S)||USD (R&E) or USD (A&S)*|
|Military Departments||Senior Procurement Executive||Senior Procurement Executive||USD (R&E) or USD (A&S)*|
|DARPA and Missile Defense Agency||Director||Director||USD (R&E) or USD (A&S)*|
|* An Under Secretary must also make a written determination in accordance with section
2371 b. Additionally, the Congress shall be notified at least 30 days before this authority is
exercised The Office of the Under Secretary making the written determination is responsible
for Congressional notification.
- FAR/DFARS are not applicable
- Agencies must be explicitly authorized by Congress to use OTs
- Contracting Officer must have Agreement Officer authority to execute OTs
- Cost sharing requirements apply if no significant participation by non-traditional defense contractors
- Limited to requirements that have a prototyping element
- OTs can only deliver limited quantities of prototypes
- Prototype project must address anticipated follow-on activities, competitive procedures must be used to award prototype project, and successful completion of prototype project required to transition to follow-production vehicle
- May not exceed $500M without USD R&E or USD A&S approval
See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone – Prototype OTs.
Procurement for Experimental Purposes ("2373")
Reference Source: Contracting Cone – Procurement for Experimental Purposes
Procurement for Experimental Purposes (commonly referred to as “2373”) authorizes the government to acquire quantities necessary for experimentation, technical evaluation, assessment of operational utility, or to maintain a residual operational capability. This authority currently allows for acquisitions in the following nine areas:
2373 can be competitive or non-competitive and awarded using a contract or agreement. FAR and DFARS are not applicable, therefore, formal competitive procedures do not apply and any resultant contract is not required to include standard provisions and clauses required by procurement laws. Instead, a contract could be written using commercial terms. Another option is to leverage the authority of 10 U.S.C. §2371 or 10 U.S.C. §2371b and execute a research or prototype OT for the items allowed under this statute.
A Determination & Finding (D&F) identifying the following information is required to execute a 2373 award:
- A description of the item(s) to be purchased and dollar amount of purchase
- A description of the method of test/experimentation
- The quantity to be tested
- A definitive statement that use of the authority at 10 U.S.C. §2373 is determined to be appropriate for the acquisition
- FAR/DFARS N/A
- SECDEF delegation required (currently delegated to DARPA, Navy, and selectively within Air Force and Army)
- Contracting Officer must have Agreement Officer authority to execute
- Purchases limited to quantities necessary for experimentation, technical evaluation, assessment of operational utility, or safety or to provide a residual operational capability
- Appropriate for use in select situations to prevent inappropriate use/abuse and potential revocation of authority
See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone – Procurement for Experimental Purposes.
DoD Component Guidance
Note that DoD Component MTA Implementation policies and guidance are currently being updated to be consistent with the newly published DODI 5000.80 (effective 30 Dec 2019).
Reference Source: Air Force Guidance Memorandum for Rapid Acquisition Activities, 27 June 2019
- Section 1.4. Rapid acquisition activities should be executed using expedited contracting vehicles consistent with applicable authorities and streamlined acquisition procedures, wherever possible, including, but not limited to, IDIQ contracts, cooperative agreements (when authorized by statute), other transactions for research (10 U.S.C. §2371), experimental authority (10 U.S.C. §2373), and FAR Part 12 procedures (where appropriate).
- Section 1.4.1. Achieving speed is just as contingent on creative contracting as it is on creative program management. Contracting officers are encouraged to be aggressive using vehicle types, incentives and penalties to encourage timeliness and performance valued by the program. Whenever possible, contracting officers should be heavily consulted in building the acquisition strategy.
Reference Source: USSOCOM Middle Tier Acquisition Authorities and Guidance, 1 Aug 2018
Contract Management: The KO supports the PM’s MTA strategy by providing contracting solutions that best address the schedule constraints. This contract strategy could be FAR or non-FAR based or a combination of both and consider the tools that are available to SOF AT&L such as the PIA, OTA’s, Grants or Cooperative Agreements, IOIQ’s, other transactions for research (10 U.S.C. §2371), experimental authority (10 U.S.C. §2373) and FAR Part 12 procedures where appropriate.
- Other Transactions Guide, USD(A&S), Dec 2018
- DAU Functional Gateway: Contracting
- DAU Media Channel: Post Award Contract Management
- DAU Community of Practice: Commercial-Off-the-Shelf Products and Commercial Services
- DAU Community of Practice: Small Business