Acquisition innovation is critical to mission success. To attract revolutionary commercial companies that normally avoid the federal government, alternative acquisition practices that embrace risk are essential.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has been embracing more agile and innovative acquisition methods. For example, in the 2015 NDAA Congress expanded the DoD’s “Other Transaction” Authority (OTA) by allowing a vastly more flexible definition of a “prototype”. Since then, DoD has seen accelerating utilization of OTA’s with expenditures growing from $1.4B in FY2016 to $16.2B in FY2020.¹
On September 8th, 2020, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist signed Defense Department Directive 5000.01, “The Defense Acquisition System.” It supports the National Defense Strategy by improving on business reform and developing a more lethal force based on faster delivery of technology innovation and a culture of performance.²
Despite all these reforms, many of these paths, while streamlined, still require a heavy lift and dedicated acquisition contracting support to fully realize and execute. What if these types of agile acquisition capabilities were packaged into an Indefinite Delivery / Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ)? What if you were able to issue tasker orders against a succinct statement of objectives to pursue truly transformational outcomes?
All of this sounds very unlikely. In my 27 years of experience with the Air Force I’ve never seen a contract vehicle combine transformational impact simultaneously with a simplified acquisition path. Sure, I’ve personally used plenty of IDIQ’s, but none that could prototype innovations at enterprise scale. As the first Chief Innovation Officer at the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center I dreamed about having access to a contract vehicle providing rapid access to cutting edge commercial services that enable enterprise-level strategy development, transformation, and modernization across the installation & mission support portfolio.
Has anyone in DoD figured out how to combine OTA-level authorities in excess of $1B with the ease of IDIQ task order delivery? Does an “easy button” like this exist in real life today?
Yes… there is an easy button!
In June 2020 the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Office of Business Transformation “SAF/MG” and deputy chief management officer (DCMO) awarded the Air Force Strategic Transformation Support (AFSTS) contract. This is “Big T” transformation and this contract vehicle seeks to fundamentally change the systems, processes, people and technology across the AF and DoD enterprises. The evaluation and award timelines were established to quickly drive requirements onto contract. Task order delivery is aimed at rapid project outcomes of less than 2 years.
Access to this contract vehicle is government wide. It’s not just Air Force, but also Combatant Commands, OSD, other DOD services, Guard and Reserve components and all Federal Agencies. Vendor partners are fully vetted to respond to transformation-aligned requirements. There is emphasis on utilizing public and private transformation best practices, methods and tools. Requests for proposals follow Standard (10 day), Expedited (3 day), and Extended (30 Day) response intervals. The tier structure differentiates between “Tier 1” highly complex, undefined and unstructured problems and “Tier 2” moderate-to-complex problems (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – Air Force Strategic Transformation Support (AFSTS)
Any Federal government offices can use the AFSTS vehicle by working with SAF/MG to develop a project request. To help shape a task order proposal request areas that are within scope are shown in Figure 2. IDIQ task areas are identified across 24 different areas and delivers significant flexibility.
Figure 2 – IDIQ scope
I applaud the SAF/MG team for having the courage and expertise to drive meaningful acquisition innovation. They took the question of “why can’t we do this?” and implemented a streamlined methodology for its customers. This is a long overdue and welcome change for both government and industry. Furthermore, it offers a peek of what is in the realm of possible for acquisition reform by truly innovative leaders and organizations, especially with DoDs desire to continually improve business reform.
If you are interested in learning more or want to pursue AFSTS contract Tier 2 services below are Definitive Logic’s AFSTS Points of Contact.