Urgent Capability Acquisition (UCA)

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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.

Contracting Strategies

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 supplies, products, or services in support of a contingency operation (to include national disaster response), humanitarian peacekeeping operation, or solutions necessary to address a critical gap in an operational need.

Federal Supply Schedules (FAR Part 8.4)

Reference Source: Contracting Cone - Federal Supply Schedules (FAR Part 8.4)

Federal Supply Schedules provide agencies with a simplified ordering process for obtaining commercial supplies and services at prices associated with volume buying. FAR Part 8.4, Federal Supply Schedules, and FAR Part 38, Federal Supply Schedule Contracts, govern the operation and use of the schedule program. Schedules contain negotiated fixed-prices for the products and services each contractor proposes to offer under the schedule (or hourly-rates for services), and then publishes the prices on the Schedules e-Library.

Agencies can place Task Orders or Delivery Orders under GSA Federal Supply Schedule for required products or services. Additionally, agencies can establish Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) under all schedule contracts.

Task Order/Delivery Order

Each schedule contains the information needed by agencies to place delivery orders or task orders directly with the schedule contractors. A Task Order is issued for the performance of tasks/services. A Delivery Order is issued for the delivery of products/supplies.

Schedule Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA)

Agencies can establish a Schedule BPA to simplify the acquisition of recurring needs for services or products that are on federal supply schedules. The Schedule BPA might cover a single product or service, or supplies or services the contractor might have on several different schedules. BPAs may be established with a single schedule contractor or with multiple schedule contractors for the same supplies or services. Multiple-award BPAs are preferred.


  • Cannot use cost-type contracts
  • Requires best approach determination and finding for actions that meet threshold

See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone - Federal Supply Schedules.

Letter Contracts (FAR 16.603)

Reference Source: Contracting Cone - Letter Contracts (FAR Part 16.603)

Letter contracts, also known as Undefinitized Contract Actions (UCA), are a means to authorize a contractor to immediately begin delivering supplies or performing services before the terms and conditions of the contract can be agreed upon. This strategy is used only when negotiating a definitive contract is not possible in sufficient time to meet the requirement, and the Government’s interest demands that the Contractor start immediately.


  • Requires statement of urgency from requiring organization
  • May be used only after the head of the contracting activity or a designee determines in writing that no other contract is suitable
  • May not commit the government to a definitive contract in excess of the funds available at the time the letter contract is executed;
  • May not be entered into without competition when competition is required by FAR Part 6
  • May not be amended to satisfy a new requirement unless that requirement is inseparable from the existing letter contract
  • Must be definitized by 180 days or before completion of 40% of work


See additional references and resources for this strategy in the Contracting Cone – Letter Contracts.

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.

Other Transactions (OTs)

Reference Source: Contracting Cone – Research OTs

Research OTs (10 U.S.C. §4021)

Research OTs are appropriate for basic, applied, and advanced research projects related to weapons systems or other military needs. Research OTs may be used to pursue research and development of technology with dual-use application (commercial and government). Unlike Prototype OTs, Research OTs do not include authority for transition to follow-on production contracts or transactions.

Research OTs should include a cost sharing arrangement that, to the maximum extent practicable, do not require funds provided by the government to exceed funds provided by other parties. There is latitude for the final share ratio to be other than 50/50 based on considerations such as the party’s resources, prior investments in the technology, commercial vs. military relevant, unusual performance risk, and nature of the project.

Although CICA is not applicable, competition should be pursued to the maximum extent practicable to incentivize high quality and competitive pricing.

Research OTs are also used to execute Technology Investment Agreements (TIAs) when the government seeks to retain intellectual property rights that deviate from the Bayh-Dole Act (35 U.S.C. §18  and 37 CFR Part 401) which permits a university, small business, or non-profit institution to pursue ownership of an invention made using government provided funds.


  • FAR/DFARS are not applicable
  • 50/50 cost share arrangement to maximum extent practicable
  • Agencies must be explicitly authorized by Congress to use OTs
  • Contracting Officer must have Agreement Officer authority to execute


Reference Source: Contracting Cone – Prototype OTs

Prototype OTs (10 U.S.C. §4022)

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.

For OTs, a “prototype project” is defined as a prototype project addressing a proof of concept, model, reverse engineering to address obsolescence, pilot, novel application of commercial technologies for defense purposes, agile development activity, creation,  design, development, demonstration of technical or operational utility, or combinations of the foregoing. A process, including a business process,may be the subject of a prototype project.

Prototype OT Award Criteria

One of the following must be met to award a Prototype OT:

  • At least one non-traditional defense contractor* participates to significant extent or
  • All significant participants are small or non-traditional defense contractors or
  • One third of total cost provided by sources other than gov (if no non-traditional defense contractor participation) or
  • Agency Senior Procurement Executive determines circumstances justify use of a transaction that provides for
    • Innovative business arrangements not feasible or appropriate under a contract
    • Opportunity to expand defense supply base not practical or feasible under a contract

*As defined in 10 U.S.C. § 3014, a non-traditional defense contractor is an entity that is not currently performing and has not performed, for at least one-year period preceding the solicitation of sources for the other transaction, any contract or subcontract for the DoD that is subject to full coverage under the cost accounting standards (CAS).


Although the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) is not applicable to OTs, competition should be pursued to the maximum extent practicable to incentivize high quality and competitive pricing. Additionally, competitive procedures are required in order to leverage the authority for transition to follow-on production contracts or transactions without subsequent competition.


  • FAR/DFARS are not applicable
  • 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 – Other Transactions.

Procurement for Experimental Purposes

Reference Source: Contracting Cone – Procurement for Experimental Purposes

Procurement for Experimental Purposes (10 U.S.C. §4023) 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:


Ordnance Signal Chemical Activity
Transportation Energy Medical
Space-Flight Aeronautical Supplies Telecommunications


The Procurement for Experimental Purposes authority 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. §4021 or 10 U.S.C. §4022 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. §4023 is determined to be appropriate for the acquisition



  • 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.