DAHLGREN, Va. – Seeking to find faster routes to emergent, urgent, and innovative naval surface and maritime capabilities, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) recently established a new Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) allowing increased collaboration with a larger industry base generating faster, flexible, and more innovative solutions for the warfighter.
The NSWCDD Naval Surface Technology and Innovation OTA was awarded to the Naval Surface Technology and Innovation Consortium (NSTIC) on June 12 and was showcased at an industry day three months later, at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center in Fredericksburg, VA., attended by more than 300 attendees. The event was designed to bring government, academia, and industry together around mission needs and potential solutions.
John Fiore, NSWCDD technical director, said of the opportunities offered through OTA, “Looking only toward the traditional defense contracting community will severely limit solutions that enhance mission effectiveness of naval personnel, platforms, systems, components, and materials vital to the Navy’s mission. NSWC Dahlgren has a continuing, significant demand for innovative prototype projects directly relevant to weapons or weapon systems that involve advanced concept demonstrations, risk reduction prototyping, technology demonstrations, and development of pre-production prototypes."
“The use of this OTA allows for non-competitive follow-on opportunities to a prototype agreement that was competitively awarded and successfully completed,” said Capt. Casey Plew, NSWCDD commanding officer.
What this means for NSWCDD, industry and academia is that a technology can now go from concept to prototype and follow-on production, while utilizing the latest commercial industry business practices. Moreover, the OTA allows Dahlgren to become a more agile, responsive organization that can adapt to new ideas and emerging challenges, often at a more competitively priced solution.
The NSTIC consortium is composed of more than 1,000 members of businesses, academic institutions, and nonprofits collaborating to improve naval capabilities and deliver innovative solutions across a wide array of technology areas, and managed by Advanced Technology International (ATI).
The OTA covers 21 Technology Areas and allows Dahlgren to carry out prototype projects directly relevant to enhancing the mission effectiveness of military members and the supporting platforms, systems, components or materials used by the Department of Defense (DoD). This agreement has a six-year period of performance (PoP) with the ability to extend the OTA for an additional four years. With this potential of a 10 year PoP, the OTA is longer and potentially more versatile than a typical Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contract.
What is an OTA?
OTAs are not procurement contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements and, as such, many procurement laws and regulations do not apply, including the Competition in Contracting Act and the FAR. While FAR provisions are not used in an OTA, the Procurement Integrity Act still applies under OTAs, as do competitive practices, basic laws and socio-economic objectives.
“The OTA approach allows the government to communicate and collaborate with industry, academia, and non-profits on emerging solutions to meet current, critical mission needs,” said Arline Parker, an NSWCDD OTA agreements officer. “It also eliminates some burdensome terms and conditions associated with the traditional government procurement process.”
For instance, the technical requirements and potential solutions can be discussed between the government and potential vendors up to proposal submission. Under the FAR-based contracts, this kind of interaction would be severely restricted once the government’s requirement is publicized.
“Through ATI, the OTA consortium manager, we have unprecedented access to a multitude of vendors (both old and new) and innovative technologies which has widened the net of possibilities for Dahlgren,” said Melisha Proctor, the NSWCDD acquisition oversight and support division head. “Hence, the OTA provides a streamlined acquisition approach to enhance prototyping initiatives with non-traditional contractors.”
Additionally, Proctor said a unique provision of this OTA is the ability to archive white papers and full proposals for several years.
This allows the technical community to retrieve these documented records for future use when funding is available, or if there is a renewed interest in a technology area without having to start the procurement process from scratch.
Proctor described this aspect of the OTA process, “These non-traditional defense contractors have innovative capabilities that can be leveraged to rapidly meet many of the evolving surface and maritime requirements and threats,” she said. “NSWCDD anticipates that upcoming and future programmatic technical solutions will come from many sources across industry and academia.”
Bill Walsh, the NSWCDD NSTIC OTA portfolio manager, discussed the technical and operational benefits that may be realized using this OTA. “The ability to effectively and rapidly prototype advanced technology concepts is paramount to ultimately field timely solutions for the Warfighter,” said Walsh. “Traditional FAR-based contracting vehicles, along with grants and cooperative agreements, have proven to be cumbersome to small and non-traditional companies who have technologies that could address and provide answers to many current and future Navy problems. We also desire greater visibility into new and developing technologies across a wide range of markets.”
In the summer of 2018, discussions across the warfare centers resulted in establishing a strategic approach that supports current and emerging mission needs and an approach that limits OTA proliferation. This alleviated industry concerns regarding the decisions to join multiple consortia. This process resulted in selected warfare centers managing OTAs. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport OTA focuses on undersea technology innovation, while at Dahlgren the focus is on naval surface technology and innovation. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division OTA concentrates on the EW and trusted electronics, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division OTA emphasizes advanced manufacturing & maintenance, and finally the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division maintains their OTA for expeditionary acquisition.
At Dahlgren, leadership determined a consortium OTA would be the most beneficial model to meet the surface technology needs.
The division sought feedback regarding this model from industry and incorporated responses into the request for proposal for the consortium management firm. A robust competition resulted in entering into an agreement with ATI who also serves as the consortium manager for 13 additional OTA consortia similar to NSTIC.
In September, NSWCDD and the NSTIC released the first NSTIC Request for Prototype Projects (RPP) with command-endorsed technology areas and statements of need related to each technology area. The fiscal year 2019 technology areas focused on many major capabilities. Some of these include cyber, big data analytics and artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
Moreover, the technology areas cover directed energy science and engineering (including electrical power management); advanced computing and software engineering; autonomous and unmanned systems. Other highly sought after capabilities include the electromagnetic environmental effects and spectrum; sensor systems; gun and projectile systems; digital engineering; human systems integration; quantum technologies.
Technology areas also cover threat engineering; mission engineering and analysis; integrated warfare systems; virtualization; asymmetric warfare; manufacturing; lethality; surface offensive and defensive engagements; and launcher technology. The RPP outlined the NSTIC OTA procurement cycle, which included submission instructions and evaluation criteria for both White Papers and Full Proposals.
The technology areas and statements of need were presented by the NSWCDD technology area managers at the Industry Day. The NSWCDD managers represent chief engineers, senior scientific technical managers, and other subject matter experts across the command’s technical departments. The fiscal year 2020 NSTIC OTA cycle is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2020.