Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)
MTA Overview & Benefits
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.
“It is about delivering capability at the speed of relevance – The longer the system takes, the slower things become.”
– Mr. Phil Rodgers, OUSD(A&S)
WHY SIMPLIFY ACQUISITION POLICY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Mr. Rodgers tells us, “In the past, different laws and organizations added layers of oversight aimed at risk aversion in the form of ensuring all kinds of things were checked off and approved, often at very high levels, before proceeding. Over time, the system became an impediment, rather than an enabler of delivering capability that outpaced the threat.” With authorities Congress provided us for the Middle Tier of Acquisition, we learned that programs can ‘get-out-of-the-gate’ quicker by greatly streamlining previously required upfront planning, studies, and analyses; without sacrificing disciplined program management and technical rigor. A great middle tier example is the Navy’s application to their need for a longer range missile. Rather than invent a whole new missile and undertake a cumbersome process, the team opted to prototype and demonstrate just a rocket motor, drive down risk, and then integrate it into an existing missile. This strategy will greatly improve process speed overall and deliver capability quicker – the crux of why we’re doing this.
Reference Source: DoDI 5000.80, Paragraphs 1.2.b-g
The MTA pathway is intended to fill a gap in the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) for those capabilities that have a level of maturity to allow them to be rapidly prototyped within an acquisition program or fielded, within 5 years of MTA program start. The MTA pathway may be used to accelerate capability maturation before transitioning to another acquisition pathway or may be used to minimally develop a capability before rapidly fielding.
The rapid prototyping path provides for the use of innovative technologies to rapidly develop fieldable prototypes to demonstrate new capabilities and meet emerging military needs. The objective of an acquisition program under this path will be to field a prototype meeting defined requirements that can be demonstrated in an operational environment and provide for a residual operational capability within 5 years of the MTA program start date. Virtual prototyping models are acceptable if they result in a fieldable residual operational capability. MTA programs may not be planned to exceed 5 years to completion and, in execution, will not exceed 5 years after MTA program start without Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE) waiver.
The rapid fielding path provides for the use of proven technologies to field production quantities of new or upgraded systems with minimal development required. The objective of an acquisition program under this path will be to begin production within 6 months and complete fielding within 5 years of the MTA program start date. MTA program production start date will not exceed 6 months after MTA program start date without DAE waiver. MTA programs may not be planned to exceed 5 years to completion and, in execution, will not exceed 5 years after MTA program start without DAE waiver.
Not all programs are appropriate for the MTA pathway. Major systems intended to satisfy requirements that are critical to a major interagency requirement or are primarily focused on technology development, or have significant international partner involvement are discouraged from using the MTA pathway.
MTA programs will not be subject to the guidance in Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 5123.01H and DoD Directive 5000.01 [Change 2, 31 Aug 2018]. 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.
DoD Component-required procedures will be compliant with applicable statute and consistent with the requirements for acquisition programs stated in this issuance. When necessary, requests for waivers to the provisions of this issuance will be submitted to the Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE).
OUSD(A&S) MTA Highlights
Reference Source: Guidance from OUSD(A&S)
– The MTA policy was the first approved pathway policy marking the beginning of the most transformational policy change in decades.
– The MTA policy encourages delegation of decision making to the lowest level possible that promotes rapid action. Only programs exceeding the Major Defense Acquisition Program (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.
– PMs “tailor-in” the regulatory information requirements used to describe the management of the program. In this context, “tailoring-in” means that the PM identifies, and recommends for Decision Authority (DA) approval, the regulatory information to be employed to document program plans and how that information gets formatted and provided for review by the DA. Streamlined and simplified approvals allow stakeholders to focus attention on specific program needs, without sacrificing rigor and discipline.
– For Programs exceeding the MDAP dollar thresholds, an advisory board will advise the USD(A&S) on appropriate use of the MTA pathway, and the USD(A&S) could direct the program to use an alternate acquisition pathway; which does not cancel or disapprove a program from utilizing some other pathway of the defense acquisition system.
– The MTA policy has tiered thresholds for data reporting to reduce burden on smaller program offices. Smaller, agile MTA programs have the potential to accept more risk and accelerate innovation compared to larger, traditional programs. This allows programs to focus on delivering capability rather than generating documents and reports required for increased oversight.
– OUSD(A&S) performs aggregate analysis to improve the acquisition pathways and advises on any improvements to program documentation approved by the Decision Authority.
– Per 10 USC 2430, the term “major defense acquisition program (MDAP)” 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).
– MTA programs will not be subject to the guidance in Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 5123.01H and DoD Directive 5000.01, “The Defense Acquisition System” [Change 2, 31 Aug 2018].
The MTA pathway’s focus on ‘rapid’ enables three unique advantages compared to other acquisition pathways
Reference Source: Guidance from OUSD(A&S)
1) Reduction of Risk and Cost Savings to the Department
MTA Rapid Prototyping enables programs to prove out emerging capability by prototyping before making a larger “investment” decision on a major program acquisition, which has associated production and sustainment costs. These rapid prototyping activities reduce engineering and development risks, thereby reducing costs.
2) Creates new business opportunities and paves the path for more innovative solutions
The Department is working towards reducing the barriers that hinder niche and small businesses in relation to Defense contracting, especially for larger and more traditional programs. The MTA pathway provides a distinct programmatic opportunity to encourage many more niche and small businesses to successfully compete for rapid prototyping efforts that are smaller in scope.
In addition, the MTA pathway features quick-start programs and tailored/streamlined test & engineering requirements. These MTA features should incentivize smaller companies, that potentially have a game-changing technology that might otherwise not have the resources, to engage on a more traditional Program of Record acquisition. Using a complimentary contracting strategy, such as an Other Transaction or Procurement for Experimental Purposes (“2373”), offers opportunities to negotiate terms & conditions more aligned with the commercial sector that are more enticing for startups and smaller technology companies to do business with the DoD. In some cases, those companies can receive follow-on sole source production contracts to rapidly field capabilities using their proven technologies through the MTA Rapid Fielding pathway.
Providing opportunities for non-traditional contractor entrants into the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) via MTA pathways creates new opportunities for these companies to help with capability development and fielding. New entrants diversify and expand the DIB, and niche and smaller companies help introduce more innovative solutions that otherwise may not have been available. That’s a win for the Department, the DIB, and small business.
3) Acceleration of capability development
MTA can be used to “jump start” a technology (or integration/demonstration with a mature capability) that is too immature to insert into a Program of Record:
- Smaller, more agile MTA programs can be structured to encourage innovative solutions more than larger, traditional programs
- Shorter timeframes and focused efforts allow teams to focus on critical technologies and feasibility of intended application without the pressure of delivering a complete end-to-end solution. This promotes burndown of key risks/concerns upfront and early in the development cycle.
- Tailored program events, processes, and documentation enables the team to focus and maintain attention on specific program needs
- Risk taking and speed of technology development are encouraged with off-ramps and learning fast, which are embedded in the MTA pathway paradigm
Watch this 26-second video clip about MTA and Leadership from the Defense Panel Discussion on MTA (June 2018):
- Mr. Ben Fitzgerald (then Director of Acquisition and Sustainment Strategy Office) interviewing Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition, Technology & Logistics) and Dr. Bruce Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Technology & Logistics)
Watch this 29-second video clip about MTA and speed with rigor:
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 Memo for Seven Steps for Incorporating Rapid Prototyping into Acquisition, 10 April 2018
Have an Aggressive Goal. It starts with having a goal that’s over and above your minimum requirements.
Bound Your Risks. Prototyping is at its best when introducing only one new hard thing and laser focusing on it.
Be Aggressive but Not Greedy. Your job is to degrade gracefully because greed kills speed.
Constrain Time and Budget, Not the Final Performance. You must understand mission requirements and metrics but avoid writing down minimum acceptable performance numbers for the prototype if possible.
It Takes a Team to Go Fast. As you begin bending metal, the requirements, acquisition, finance and test plans will be continually impacted. It takes good old-fashioned collaboration to avoid diffusion of purpose.
Get a Signature from Me [MDA].
GO FAST. Keep me [MDA] in the loop. Get ready for Procurement/Fielding. Steal time from the enemy.
Reference Source: ASA(ALT) Middle Tier of Acquisition Policy, 20 March 2020
- Purpose: This memorandum updates and replaces reference 1.a.* and 1.b.*, and provides Army Program Executive Officers (PEO) and Program Managers (PM) with guidance for MTA programs in accordance with references 1.c* and 1.d*. It provides policy and procedures for the initiation, execution, and transition of MTA programs.
- Background: References 1.c*. and 1.d*. provides authority and guidance to rapidly prototype or rapidly field capabilities under the MTA pathway. MTA programs will not be subject to the guidance in references 1.e* or 1.f*. The MTA includes two distinct pathways (illustrated in Figure 1). MTA programs may not be planned to exceed five years to completion and, in execution, will not exceed five years after MTA program start without Defense Acquisition Executive (DAE) waiver. Rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts may be executed in parallel, however each effort must have separate MTA approval.
- The rapid prototyping path provides for the use of innovative technologies and new capabilities to rapidly develop fieldable prototypes to demonstrate new capabilities and meet emerging military needs. The objective of an acquisition program under this path is fielding a prototype that was successfully demonstrated in an operational environment and providing a residual operational capability within five years of the program start date. Virtual prototyping models are acceptable if they result in a fieldable residual operational capability.
- The rapid fielding path provides for the use of existing products and proven technologies to field production quantities of new or upgraded systems with minimal development required. The objective of an acquisition program under this path is to begin production within six months and complete fielding within five years of the MTA program start date. MTA program production start date will not exceed six months after MTA program start date without DAE waiver.
* Reference sources listed:
1.a. Memorandum, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) (OASA(ALT)), 25 September 2018, subject: OASA(ALT) Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA) Policy.
1.b. Memorandum, OASA(ALT), 15 December 2017, subject: Implementing Acquisition Streamlining and Cultural Change.
1.c. Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 5000.02, “Operation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework,” January 23, 2020.
1.d. DoDI 5000.80, “Operation of the MTA,” December 30, 2019.
1.e. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 5123.01H, “Charter of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and the Implementation of the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System,” 31 August 2018.
1.f. DoD Directive 5000.01, “The Defense Acquisition System,” May 12, 2003, Incorporating Change 2, August 31, 2018.
Reference Source: ASN(RDA) Memo – Middle Tier Acquisition and Acquisition Agility Guidance, 24 April 2018
- The DON will follow an incremental approach to implementation.
- We will use these authorities to enable speed and agility, while maintaining appropriate accountability, oversight and transparency.
- The DON implementation plan will include a series of pilot programs to exercise these authorities and inform policy development.
- PEOs with pilot program candidates will work with their product DASN to be evaluated for acceleration as a pilot program.
- I am directing SYSCOMs and PEOs to assess their organizations’ contracting, technical, legal, and financial processes to facilitate the acceleration of programs when appropriate.
Reference Source: USSOCOM Middle Tier Acquisition Authorities and Guidance, 1 Aug 2018
1. SOF AT&L will fully implement the authorities from Section 804 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 and the guidance from the Under Secretary for Defense (Acquisition and Sustainment) Memorandum “Middle Tier of Acquisition Interim Authority and Guidance,” dated 16 April 2018. It is my intent to dominate this middle tier acquisition space enabling rapid prototyping and rapid fielding of SO-peculiar capability.
2. These authorities are tailor-made for the SO-peculiar acquisition activities we execute. The authorities allow for rapid pursuit of capabilities without the normal schedule impacts associated with the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS) and DoD Directive 5000.01 , “The Defense Acquisition System.” However, all MTAs in support of USSOCOM will have command-validated requirements using command-approved funding sources.
3. Mid-tier acquisition strategies will be the default for the vast majority of SOF AT&L acquisition efforts. I expect all Milestone Decision Authorities operating under my authority to pursue Mid-tier acquisition strategies and only revert to more traditional approaches when required. The following guidance provides the SOF AT&L acquisition team with the framework to operate within mid-tier acquisition authorities successfully in support of USSOCOM’s Components, TSOCs and, ultimately, the SOF Operator.