Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)

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Acquisition Strategy & Documentation

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.



Reference Source: DoDI 5000.80, Paragraph 3.1.b


Acquisition and Funding Strategies. DoD Components will develop a process to implement acquisition and full funding strategies for the program. This process will result in an acquisition strategy, which includes security, schedule and production risks, and a cost estimate.

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.80, Paragraph 4.1


Rapid prototyping acquisition strategies will include security, schedule and technical risks; a test strategy or an assessment of test results; and a transition plan that includes a timeline for completion within 2 years of all necessary documentation required for transition, as determined by the DA, after MTA program start.

Intellectual Property (IP) Planning

Reference Source: DODI 5010.44 IP Acquisition and Licensing Section 1.2


Integrate Intellectual Property (IP) planning fully into acquisition strategies and product support strategies to protect core DoD interests over the entire life cycle. Seek to acquire only those IP deliverables and license rights necessary to accomplish these strategies, bearing in mind the long-term effect on cost,competition, and affordability.


Weapon and information systems acquired by DoD in support of the warfighter are, and will be, increasingly dependent on technology for its operation, maintenance, modernization, and sustainment. Acquiring and licensing the appropriate IP is vital for ensuring the systems will remain functional, sustainable, upgradable and affordable. Because balancing the interests of the U.S. Government and industry in IP can be diffcult, early and effective understanding, planning, and communications between the U.S. Government and industry is critical, as is ensuring delivery, acceptance, and management of the necessary IP deliverables (e.g., technical data and computer software), with appropriate license rights. The DoD requires fair treatment of IP owners, and seeks to create conditions that encourage technologically advanced solutions to meet DoD needs.

Exportability and Coalition Interoperability Planning

Reference Source: Guidance from OUSD(A&S) - International Cooperation, Dec 2020

PMs should integrate international acquisition and exportability planning into the program’s acquisition strategy. PMs should:

  • Design the system for exportability to foreign partners, except when the program has an DA-approved waiver allowing for a U.S.-only design. PMs for programs exceeding the MDAP dollar threshold pursuing a U.S.-only design and not planning for system export require an DA-approved exportability design waiver. If a program has been approved for a waiver for a U.S.-only design, the DA will notify the USD(A&S) and the requirements validation authority.

MTA Test Strategy

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.89, Section 4.3.c.(1)-(2)


To develop the test strategy, the PM may follow the streamlined TEMP guide, if that facilitates their planning, or other planning guides pre-coordinated with the OTA and DOT&E, to tailor their particular strategy to the acquisition pathway and the expected operational environment. The test strategy should present, within the context of the intended acquisition strategy, the acquisition decision that the testing will inform, program objectives and schedule including major test events and milestones, the evaluation framework, required test resources (facilities, ranges, tools, test articles, personnel, and funding), and technical or test limitations.


Rapid prototyping test strategies will set evaluation criteria and milestones for technology maturity and prototype performance, culminating in an ops demo of the fieldable prototype in an operational environment. The test strategy will describe the testing that will produce the data necessary to measure technology maturity and prototype performance as well as a description of how the program will achieve a residual operational capability. Evaluation criteria should include performance, safety, interoperability, reliability, and cybersecurity. Progressive operational and live-fire assessments of capabilities and limitations, based on data from incremental integrated test events during the prototype development program, should be included in the test strategy.

MTA Programs on T&E Oversight

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.89, Section 3.2.a


The DOT&E will manage the T&E oversight list used jointly by the USD(R&E) and DOT&E. Programs on OT and LFT&E oversight include those programs that meet the statutory definition of MDAPs in Section 2430, Title 10, U.S.C., and those that are designated by the DOT&E for oversight pursuant to Paragraph (a)(2)(B) of Section 139, Title 10, U.S.C. The DOT&E treats the latter programs as MDAPs for the purpose of OT and LFT&E oversight requirements, but not for any other purpose.

Purpose and Applicability for MTA Programs

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.89, Section 4.3.a


MTA programs include rapid prototyping and rapid fielding programs intended to complete in 2 to 5 years. MTA programs may be placed on the T&E oversight list and remain subject to: the LFT&E requirements in Section 2366 of Title 10, U.S.C.; IOT&E requirements in Section 2399 of Title 10, U.S.C.; LRIP quantities described in Section 2400 of Title 10, U.S.C.; and cybersecurity test requirements described in the April 3, 2018 DOT&E Memorandum. The DOT&E will determine whether to oversee an MTA program according to standards set in Paragraph 3.2.b. Memorandum.

General Approach for MTA Programs on T&E Oversight

Reference Source: DoDI 5000.89, Section 4.3.b


The DOT&E supports both the intent of the MTA pathway and the statutory mandate that MTA programs demonstrate and evaluate operational performance.


DoDI 5000.80 requires both rapid prototyping and rapid fielding programs using the MTA pathway to develop a test strategy. Programs under T&E oversight will submit this test strategy, to include plans for operational testing and operational demonstrations (ops demos), to the DOT&E for approval. MTA ops demos offer a unique opportunity to “fly before you buy” by involving the operational user early in the acquisition process, before the initial production decision is made. The lead OTA will incorporate operational user inputs and participation in program test strategies. The DOT&E encourages tailoring MTA ops demos, and other T&E, to enable rapid fielding while maintaining acceptable risk to the warfighter.


The program’s decision authority will designate a DoD Component OTA to serve as the lead OTA. The PM will collaborate with the OTA and other stakeholders to develop a fully integrated test strategy. The OTA will submit plans for ops demos to the DOT&E for approval before starting the test. For programs conducting multiple ops demos, the DOT&E will tailor this approval process to ensure appropriate oversight of ops demos leading to fielding or transition to another pathway in order to minimize disrupting early testing. The DOT&E, in collaboration with the PM or OTA, will set the timeline for submitting the test strategy and OTPs for approval. The data from all ops demos should be made available to the OTAs, the DOT&E, and other stakeholders for use to scope and inform subsequent test events and decisions.


Early and continuous coordination and collaboration among the DOT&E, the PM, and the OTA will support faster reviews by the DOT&E. The PM will ensure that the OTA and DOT&E has access to ops demos and other operational, live fire, and cybersecurity test events and data. For rapid prototyping programs that will not field a significant residual operational capability to the deployed warfighter, the DOT&E will tailor the test plan approval process, which may include delegating approval authority, depending on the level of risk to the warfighter.

Check out the MTA FAQs and MTA Tips for potentially related questions from the field and helpful tips!

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). 

Air Force

Rapid Prototyping Acquisition Strategy Considerations during Alpha Phase

Dr. Roper, Air Force Service Acquisition Executive, outlined four tailorable acquisition phases for a MTA prototype in his AF Guidance Memo on Rapid Acquisition Activities. The first phase is Alpha: Prototyping.

Reference Source: Air Force Guidance Memorandum for Rapid Acquisition Activities, 27 June 2019


3.5. The Alpha Phase should be based on guidance in this memorandum and the memorandum dated 10 April 2018 shown in Figure 1. Prudent risks can and should be undertaken unless mission criticality or operational urgency mandate a lower-risk approach.


Risk/reward balance should be addressed and documented in the Acquisition Strategy Document (ASD).


The PM should set design goals (e.g., digital engineering, open architecture, software-defined functionality, agile software development, net-enablement, incorporation of artificial intelligence) that may not be necessary for achieving the cost, performance, or schedule objectives of the prototype but that might enable easier capability improvement and sustainment throughout the life of the system.


Schedule and funding defined in the ASD should be considered relatively fixed; consequently, the PM should determine when design goals introduce unacceptable risk to on-time, on-cost prototype delivery and demonstration.


The PM should trade performance objectives to maintain schedule and budget.


The MDA will subsequently decide whether the demonstrated performance is sufficient for subsequent fielding (given lifecycle considerations and operational needs) or whether a subsequent prototyping phase is needed/merited.


The opportunity for successive rapid prototypes—vice premature creation of a Program of Record—is what enables smart risk taking in this phase. Strive to overachieve early on and fallback as reality intervenes.

MTA Acquisition Strategy Documentation

Reference Source: Air Force Guidance Memorandum for Rapid Acquisition Activities, 27 June 2019


5.1. It is the responsibility of the initiating or assigned PM to propose required program documentation, decision points, metrics, guardrails, as well as timing and scope of decision reviews, and to establish cost, schedule, risk, and performance objectives. This strategy should be determined at program initiation, approved by the MDA, and documented in the ASD.


5.1.1. Validated requirements should be documented in a previously-approved or subsequently coordinated requirements document. When available, the requirements document should include the system specification sheet as an attachment.

5.1.2. Documentation should be completed within a reasonable amount of time of requirements validation.


5.2. The PM should stress tailored documentation while complying with applicable statutory requirements, as well as the FAR, Defense FAR Supplement, or Air Force FAR Supplement requirements. Though speed through streamlining should be fervently pursued, it should be balanced with transparency and accountability considerations to maintain confidence in Air Force rapid acquisition programs.


5.3. At a minimum, the PM should consider the intent of the following documents and their applicability to their specific rapid acquisition authority and shall complete documents statutorily required (T-0):


5.3.1. Tailored Acquisition Baseline / Tailored Integrated Master Schedule,

5.3.2. Tailored Acquisition Strategy Document

5.3.3. Tailored Concept Analyses,

5.3.4. Clinger-Cohen Act Compliance, Risk Management Framework, and Cybersecurity Strategy,

5.3.5. Program Environmental Safety Occupational Health Evaluation,

5.3.6. National Environmental Policy Act/Executive Order 12114 Compliance Schedule,

5.3.7. Frequency Allocation Application,

5.3.8. Program protection to include critical program information, supply chain risk, and anti-tamper considerations,

5.3.9. Intelligence and Threat Information/Life Cycle Mission Data Plan.


5.4. The PM will plan for and document in the ASD the following items:


5.4.1. Acquisition and funding requirements to include how competition requirements applicable to the given contract and acquisition authority will be met

5.4.2. Demonstration and evaluation of performance of prototypes in an operational environment within five years (where applicable),

5.4.3. Risk management,

5.4.4. Transition planning for prototypes to new or existing acquisition programs,

5.4.5. Lifecycle costs, sustainment, logistics support, and system interoperability (if fielding, may be addressed in a tailored Life Cycle Sustainment Plan),

5.4.6. Test planning (may be addressed in a tailored Test and Evaluation Master Plan),

5.4.7. Intellectual property strategy.


6.3. Digital engineering, modular open system architecture, software-defined capabilities, and commercial standards and interfaces are strongly encouraged and should be thoroughly assessed for all rapid acquisitions. Inclusions should be documented in the acquisition strategy.


6.4. Agile software development and development operations (DevOps) is required for all new initiatives unless waived by the MDA for reasons of prohibitive cost, schedule, or performance or other national security considerations. The software development strategy should be documented as part of the ASD.



MTA Acquisition Strategy

Reference Source: ASA(ALT) Middle Tier of Acquisition Policy, 20 March 2020, Enclosure 1, TAB B
[Note: CAC required for access]


1. The PM will include a program acquisition strategy to support the Army Acquisition Executive’s decision to use the MTA authority.


2. Subsequent changes to the approved acquisition strategy require prior DA approval.


3. The acquisition strategy should address, at minimum, the following areas:


a. MTA program purpose.


b. Project description.


c. Capability need, including threat and operational gaps addressed.


d. MTA justification: why and how the MTA program is appropriate for execution under MTA’s rapid prototyping or rapid fielding pathways; demonstrate how the MTA program fits within Army Modernization Priorities.


e. Acquisition approach.


f. Program cost and funding plan, including cost, schedule, and performance metrics.


g. Program schedule, including knowledge and decision points and decision reviews.


h. Fielding strategy (as applicable).


i. Test strategy, or an assessment of test results.


j. Product support strategy.


k. Program risks and risk mitigation approaches.


i. Rapid prototyping acquisition strategies will include security, schedule, and technical risks.


ii. Rapid fielding acquisition strategies will include security, schedule, and production risks.


l. A transition plan that includes a timeline for completion of all necessary documentation, not later than two years after program start.


4. Rights in Technical Data and Software. PMs must address intellectual property (IP) in their acquisition strategy, consistent with the ASA(ALT) policy on intellectual property. This includes: any IP developed by the contractor independent of the MTA program; the cost to purchase or license the IP; the IP that will be developed during the MTA; what rights to the data the government will have and need.


MTA Rapid Prototyping Documentation

Reference Source: ASN(RDA) Middle Tier Acquisition and Acquisition Agility Guidance, 24 April 2018

Section 2.1. The PM should review the documentation in Table 2-1 and make recommendations to the Approval Authority to identify which documents best support project execution when utilizing the Rapid Prototyping pathway.

Table 2-1

Documentation Elements to Address Approval Authority
Acquisition Decision Memorandum   ASN (RD&A)
Prototyping Plan
  • Prototype Acquisition Strategy
  • Performance Goals
  • Knowledge Points
  • System Experimentation and Assessment Plan
  • Prototype Deployment Strategy
Acquisition Plan When required by the FAR ADA
Capability Documentation (within 6 months of initiation)
  • Top level requirements document -or-
  • JEONS, JUONS, Service ONS -or-
  • CDD or CPD
Responsible DCNO -or- DC, CD&I
ADA – Acquisition Decision Authority
DCNO – Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
DC, CD&I – Deputy Chief for Capability Development and Integration



MTA Program Strategy

Reference Source: USSOCOM Middle Tier Acquisition Authorities and Guidance, 1 Aug 2018

Stakeholder Analysis: As with all SOF AT&L acquisition efforts, the Acquisition Team is expected to understand the required capability, whether formally stated or not, of the user community represented by the HQ, Components and TSOCs. For an MTA strategy to be applicable, the capability must be simultaneously well-defined and broadly defined. A capability that is either defined too tightly or is subject to deviations or growth over time will negate the Acquisition Team’s ability to pursue an MTA strategy. The team must also understand the current maturity of technology within industry, labs, academia and the Services. When the Acquisition Team sees an opportunity to satisfy a known requirement with a technology that could be prototyped and/or fielded within five years, they should pursue an MTA strategy in support of the Capability Sponsor.


Facts: Given a firm understanding of the operational capability required and of the technological maturity of the proposed solution, the Acquisition Team should have a strong set of facts to work from in order to pursue an MTA. These must include the following:

  • MTA Strategy Threshold Criteria:
    • Rapid Prototyping: Field a prototype that can be demonstrated in an operational environment and provide for a residual operational capability within five years of the development of an approved requirement.


  • Requirements Validation: For Rapid Prototyping, the effort might precede a validated requirement and, in fact, may inform the requirement. Although the MTA authority is not subject to JCIDS, the Acquisition Team must have a validated requirement before they can apply MFP-11 resources for a Rapid Fielding. This valid requirement could come in the form of a Directed Requirement, such as a Command-directed UDA, in order to achieve schedule efficiencies opportunities. The Acquisition Team will collaborate with the Capability Sponsor and the USSOCOM J8 to rapidly staff the requirement across the USSOCOM Enterprise to reduce risk and facilitate information sharing prior to VCDR validation.


  • Approved Resources: In order to meet the schedule constraints of an MTA strategy, by definition, the funding resources for an MTA may not have been explicitly resourced via the POM/Budget/Spend plan process. For the current authority, there is no set-aside rapid prototyping or rapid fielding funding. The Acquisition Team must have command-approved resources to execute the MTA strategy. The VCDR will approve any required funding realignments or reprogrammings via the SPP process. Whenever possible, anticipated MTA’s should be included in budget exhibits and budget briefings to Congress to ensure confidence that we are executing appropriated funds within Congressional intent. If an MTA is initiated after Budget Exhibit submission, the MDA will coordinate with SOLA to inform the PSM’s from the four Defense Committees.
    • Rapid Prototyping: For RDTE to support Rapid Prototyping efforts, USSOCOM currently resources an Engineering Analysis line for advanced concept development and prototype development in the “SOF Advanced Technology Development” Rl. This funding is specifically intended to mature technology in preparation for fielding. All program 6.7 Rl line descriptions should address rapid prototyping explicitly in support of the program acquisition strategy. If resources for a rapid prototyping effort are not available within the SOST Rl or the appropriate commodity-based Rl, then a reprogramming action will be required. An ATR will likely not be responsive enough to meet the schedule constraints of an MTA. For BTR actions, we will use the SPP to ensure full transparency and approval of any funding reprogrammings in support of an MTA.
    • Transition: If a Rapid Prototyping effort does not transition to fielding or Rapid Fielding effort fails to adhere to the MTA schedule requirements, the residual technology can transition to a traditional acquisition program.


  • Reporting Requirements: All MTA’ s must provide the following as defined by USD(A&S)’s guidance for MTA implementation:
    1. Name of the Program
    2. Capability Gap or Problem
    3. Definitive Source for the Capability Gap or Problem
    4. Capability Characteristic or Solution
    5. Date Funds Approved for Initiation
    6. Funding Source
    7. Program Result (Transition or Termination)
    8. Date of Transition or Termination
    9. Reason for Transition or Termination
    10. Program Budget
    11. Vendor Name


Items 1-6 should form the basis for requirements validation. Items 7-11 follow program initiation. This data will be shared across the Department via an open and collaborative Department-managed tool and internally via the SOF AT&L Acquisition Management System.

Additional facts bearing on an MTA strategy follow the guidance in App J, USSOCOM Directive 70-1.

Framing Assumptions: The three framing assumptions central to the decision to pursue an MTA strategy are:

  1. Capability Definition: The Capability Sponsor can articulate the capability required with sufficient fidelity to give the Acquisition Team confidence that a material solution is possible to achieve the capability within the time constraints of the MTA authority. The Capability Sponsor can also be expected to consider trading capability for schedule as long as threshold KP P’s are met to ensure MTA schedule constraints are met. Furthermore, the Capability Sponsor must consider how to define an appropriate MTA fielding quantity. The trad itional concept of FOC may not apply to a capability tha t will rapidly spiral as a result of commercial technology advancements.
    • Technology Maturity: The technology is already at sufficient maturity (Rapid Fielding) or can be rapidly advanced to a greater maturity (Rapid Prototyping).
    • Funding Stability: When USSOCOM commits to an MTA fielding strategy, funding resources will be committed to ensure fielding can be completed within five years without changes in the POM causing a delay past the five-year window.
  2. Risk/Opportunity Analysis: Given that the MTA authority emphasizes schedule above cost and performance, the Acquisition Team should plan for the mitigation of any identified Risks to schedule and plan for the pursuit of any Opportunities that increase their ability to achieve the required schedule. Each member of the Acquisition Team should consider risks and opportunities within their functional areas: program management, contract management, financial management, test planning and logistics management.
  3. Transition to Planning: Once a Rapid Prototyping effort transitions to Fielding or upon the initiation of a Rapid Fielding effort, the Acquisition Team incorporates the results of their Stakeholder, Facts, Framing Assumptions and Risk/Opportunity Analysis to recommend an MTA strategy to the MDA.


Program Management: The PM will recommend a tailored management strategy by considering what products, reviews and decision events are required to effectively manage an MTA. At a minimum the MDA will require the following documentation:

  • Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM): Signed by the AE, designating the effort as a mid-tier acquisition.
  • Simplified Acquisition Management Plan (SAMP): Following a successful Acquisition Strategy Brief, the Acquisition Team will complete a SAMP.
  • Fielding and Deployment Release (F&DR): Before fielding a mid-tier acquisition capability, the Acquisition Team will achieve a successful F&OR or Conditional F&DR.


Test Plan: An MTA Strategy must account for the capability receiving an F&DR or CF&DR before fielding. The Test Officer will play a critical role in ensuring that appropriately tailored test events are planned, documented in the SAMP, resourced and executed to ensure the capability is safe, suitable and effective on schedule.

Logistics Management: The PSM is equally responsible for a successful F&DR or CF&DR decision before fielding and must develop an appropriately tailored Life Cycle Sustainment Plan as part of the SAMP for the capability prior to fielding.

Additional Resources