Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)

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Transition Program

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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.d


Transitioning Rapid Prototyping Programs. For each MTA program, DoD Components will develop a process for transitioning successful prototypes to new or existing acquisition programs for production, fielding, and operations and sustainment under the rapid fielding pathway or other acquisition pathway. 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.

Prototype Transition Pathways

Reference Source: DoD Prototyping Handbook, Oct 2022

The measure of a successful prototyping project is whether or not the project generates the information necessary to support a specific decision. If the project does not successfully generate the necessary information, two transition pathways exist:

  • The prototype is returned to the technology base for further development and evaluation.
  • The prototyping project is terminated, lessons learned are documented, and the prototype is discarded.

However, if the project does successfully generate the necessary information, most SMEs agree on the transition pathways described in subsections below.

Prototype is Discarded

Most often, the prototype built is a minimum viable product—the simplest and least expensive prototype possible that answers the required question. These prototypes will have limited utility after the project is completed and will, therefore, be discarded at the conclusion of the project, and the prototyping project will be terminated.

Prototype is Returned to the Technology Base

Some prototypes that successfully generate the data sets needed to answer a question can be modified or reused to answer other questions. These prototypes will be returned to the technology base for modification and further evaluation. Other successful prototypes may demonstrate operational utility, but are not needed immediately for operations. These prototypes should be returned to the technology base and catalogued for potential future operational use.

Transition to Operational Use

In some cases, at the conclusion of the project, prototypes will transition to operational use to address an existing critical warfighter capability gap. This fielded capability can either be an interim solution (i.e., until a PoR capability is fielded) or a final capability solution. In these situations, early collaboration between the innovator, PM, and warfighter is essential to clearly understand the operational need, establish the criteria that defines a successful demonstration in an operational environment, and develop an appropriate sustainment package (e.g., standard operating procedures, training requirements, etc.) to be delivered with the prototype. Identification of the transition partner and collaboration with them at the start of the planning phase and throughout the project is critical to success.

Transition to Rapid Fielding.

The Middle Tier Acquisition pathway authorizes a rapid fielding pathway for prototypes that meet the following criteria:

      • The prototype meets a high-priority warfighter need or reduces the lifecycle cost of a weapon system.
      • The original prototyping project was successfully completed.
      • The prototype was demonstrated in a relevant environment.

Production, using this pathway, is expected to begin within six months and be completed within five years of the development of an approved requirement.

Integration Into an Existing Program.

Some prototyping projects are designed to develop new technology that will integrate into an MDAP or an existing fielded PoR as a component or subcomponent of the larger system. In these situations, early collaboration between the prototyping project PM, the PM of the receiving MDAP or PoR, and the innovator is essential to ensure integration and interoperability success.

Transition Technology to a New Acquisition Program.

Some prototyping projects will transition into their own FAR-based acquisition programs. These new programs will most likely be subject to the tailorable requirements of DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000.02 and the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) process. If this pathway is expected from the outset of prototyping project planning, it would be prudent to begin planning and coordinating the transition as early as possible with appropriate DoD and Military Services process owners and drafting the appropriate artifacts required by traditional acquisition processes.

Prototype Transition Planning

Reference Source: DoD Prototyping Handbook, Oct 2022

Planning the transition should be initiated as early as possible. Early employment of CFTs, discussed in the “Prototyping Project Planning” section, can also help bridge the “valley of death” (the gap between technology development and production where promising technologies often “die” due to inappropriate or insufficient funding) by ensuring necessary resources are identified to facilitate the transition of high-priority programs. Transition plans should include, as appropriate, the transition approach, the transition partner, supportability requirements, data rights, funding approach, and specific testing or demonstration criteria required by the transition partner. This plan should be updated in collaboration with the transition partner throughout the project’s period of performance.

Best Practices for Transitioning Prototypes

Reference Source: DoD Prototyping Handbook, Oct 2022

The following best practices were recommended for transitioning prototypes:

  • To increase the likelihood that a prototyping project will transition as planned, a transition agreement between the PM and the transition partner should be drafted within the first year of the project and all affected parties should sign the agreement.
  • PMs that transition prototypes to operational use or rapid fielding should ensure the capability is safe for the warfighter, suitable for the mission, and supportable.
  • A configuration baseline (e.g., level 2 drawings) should be established for prototypes that transition to rapid fielding.

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

Transition (in general)

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


1.5. Upon successful operational demonstrations addressing validated requirements, rapid prototyping should transition into procurement and fielding via rapid fielding authorities, incorporation in a current acquisition program, or modification of a fielded system.

Transition to Rapid Fielding

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 second phase is Beta Phase: Fielding and Initial Production.

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


3.6. The Beta Decision is of paramount importance. The MDA and PM will ensure prototyping efforts have aggressively tackled all cost-, schedule-, and performance-driving risks and conducted an operationally-relevant demonstration prior to initiation of a rapid fielding effort. This decision must terminate technically-flawed, prohibitively-costly, or operationally-unwieldy concepts with extreme prejudice.


3.6.1. Unlike traditional acquisition, rapid acquisition activities will not be considered Programs of Record until entering the Beta Phase.


MTA Program Transition

Reference Source: ASA(ALT) Middle Tier of Acquisition Policy, 20 March 2020, Enclosure 3
[Note: CAC required for access]


Transitioning. See Figure 2.


Figure 2. The Adaptive Acquisition Framework has 6 pathways: 1) Urgent Operational Needs; 2) Middle Tier of Acquisition; 3) Major Capability Acquisition; 4) Software Acquisition; 5) Defense Business Services; and 6) Acquisition of Services.


Rapid Prototyping. Upon successful completion of prototyping, rapid prototyping efforts should transition to new or existing acquisition programs for production, fielding, and operations and sustainment under the rapid fielding pathway or other acquisition pathway. Some transition options are:


i. Transition to Rapid Fielding. When transitioning to rapid fielding, the program must have separate approval to use the MTA Rapid Fielding pathway. Production will need to start within six months, and fielding must be finished within five years.


ii. Transition to follow-on development. The original prototyping effort may lead to a follow-on development that would lead to a separate fielding.


iii. Transition to initial fielding and follow-on rapid prototyping effort. A prototyping effort may lead to both an initial fielding and the development of another rapid prototyping effort. In this case, rapid fielding of the original MTA must be completed within five years. If the MTA developed technology leads to another rapid prototyping effort, this will reset the five-year timeline.


iv. Transition to incorporation in a current acquisition program. The production off-ramp may also lead to fielding the mature prototype through the traditional fielding method via a program of record. In this case, the fielded capability is not bound by the five-year limit that is associated with rapid fielding.


Termimated MTA Programs

Reference Source: ASA(ALT) Middle Tier of Acquisition Policy, 20 March 2020, Enclosure 3
[Note: CAC required for access]


Terminated Programs. Upon decision to terminate an MTA program, the Program Manager (PM) will submit for approval to the Army Acquisition Executive a termination Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) or Information Memo, citing the reason(s) for the termination, transition, etc. Additionally, the PM will submit a final MTA spreadsheet (specifically, the “Outcome” section).

MTA Programs that exceed Five Years

Reference Source: ASA(ALT) Middle Tier of Acquisition Policy, 20 March 2020, Enclosure 2
[Note: CAC required for access]


Schedule. MTA program plans may not exceed five years to completion. Any MTA program execution exceeding five years after MTA program start has the following options:


a. Obtain a DAE waiver.


b. End the MTA program by submitting exit documentation, and then start a new MTA program.


c. Terminate the MTA program.


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

Section 2.1. When rapid prototyping projects have successfully demonstrated the warfighting need in an operationally relevant environment, they may enter the Middle Tier Acquisition under the Rapid Fielding pathway.

Section 6. Transition. Successful Rapid Prototyping projects not transitioning into Rapid Fielding shall transition into an existing acquisition program, a new acquisition program, or the residual capability can be sustained in the field.

6.1. Fielding of Rapid Prototypes. The PM is not required to enter Rapid Fielding to continue to operate initial prototypes in the field if desired by the requirement community and the Acquisition Decision Authority. Instead, the PM will development an appropriate sustainment package to support the items in the field until they are dispositioned.

6.2. Transition to Acquisition Program. Where production exceeds the five year limit on Rapid Fielding, or the program would be more appropriately managed under a traditional acquisition pathway, the Acquisition Decision Authority may transition the program to a traditional acquisition pathway at an appropriate milestone.


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

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.