Experts on Other Transactions (OTs) would like to set the record straight: OTs do not allow the acquisition workforce to cut corners.
In fact, to better understand what OTs are, it might first be easier to clarify what they are not.
OTs are not about going outside the rules or skirting around Government regulations. They cannot be used to avoid the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). OTs do not automatically supply a faster resolution or offer a one-size-fits-all solution.
What OTs are is a custom, tailored way to do business.
“Other Transactions is a tool in the acquisition toolbox that might not be appropriate for everything, but if there is a need, it can be a game-changer,” Hallie Balkin, DAU learning director and professor for OTs, said. “We use OTs to obtain the most innovative, most advanced solutions for the Warfighter.”
With OTs, the Government can quickly enter into research and prototype transactions with industry and academia, the nature of which are unique transactions that differ from Government procurement contracts. It’s important to note that while OTs offer an alternate way to do business, they are, according to Balkin, “not always appropriate” and, in cases with prototypes, statutory authority must be followed.
Michelle Currier, DAU professor of contract management and longstanding Other Transaction Authority (OTA) expert, was quick to agree that exploring OTs as a contracting vehicle is an excellent way to expand the Government toolbox for acquisition solutions.
“It’s important for the Government to understand the problems they’re trying to solve and the solutions that are available to them,” Currier said. “The diversity of the tools that we have allow the Government the flexibility to craft good deals for the Warfighter.”
To better demonstrate how these deals can be crafted, and to put to bed the escalating stream of misinformation once and for all, Currier is providing a series of Other Transaction Authority workshops. This virtual series, scheduled to begin August 5, will provide insight into OT guidance, policies, and proven practices for developing solutions using OTs as a contracting vehicle.
“We just need to keep OTs and information in front of Services. It’s a constant refresh of information,” Currier said, before issuing a resounding call-to-action. “OT training needs to reach all levels within an organization in order to craft strategies for mission success.”
Balkin emphatically agreed, noting that acquisition professionals should apply critical thinking to get the most out of OTs.
“We don’t want to give a DAU-prescribed process because there is no 'single' process," she said. "Each OT should be tailored to the specific requirement.”
The August 5 session will explore the practical application of authorities in Defense acquisition. Panelists include Currier; Ryan Connel, DCMA Northeast pricing director; and Benjamin McMartin, former Army Agreements Officer and currently the managing partner for Public Spend Forum, creator of the Acquisition Innovation Roadshow and co-author of DoD’s officially sanctioned Other Transactions Guide.
Like Currier and Balkin, McMartin remains staunchly resolute that OTs are about tailoring acquisition, not going outside the rules.
“They should always be custom designed to fit the requirement,” he said.
Additionally, McMartin noted that the use of OTs in the right contract can provide an excellent opportunity for non-traditional Government contractors to develop solutions.
“The barriers to entry to do business with DoD, including cost, time and complexity of the acquisition process – amongst others – has been recognized for decades,” he stated. “[That’s] why this session is important – understanding how OTs, in the hands of a knowledgeable practitioner, can alleviate or even eliminate some of the traditional barriers, is the key to getting value out of the Other Transaction Authorities."
McMartin will explain the legal requirements associated with OTA, how to interpret the Other Transactions Guide and his intention behind writing it. He will also clear up any lingering ambiguity regarding the subject, as the internet has not done the topic any favors when it comes to getting out the facts.
“There’s no shortage of uninformed opinion!” McMartin exclaimed.
Rest assured – his session with Currier will offer consistency and resources on the matter. The two also hope to promote awareness of OTs and reinforce their value.
“The value of OTs, at their core, is to allow for an arm’s length negotiation with companies on commercial terms,” McMartin said.
“I think the training for OTs is at a higher levels than junior-level, and maybe there is a lack of awareness for junior-level OT folks – only in understanding the complexity,” Currier explained.
She reflected on her own experience, which has involved reserving focused OT training for targeted groups that have typically been more senior in the organization.
By going virtual, Currier is optimistic about the impact the DoD Other Transaction Authority Workshop will have on both senior and junior members of the workforce. She described the workshop as “a wonderful way to connect the community through these virtual sessions. It’s a network opportunity for people to meet, share best practices and continue to support each other. DAU is the platform where we bring communities together to hold conversations and share best solutions to support our Warfighters.”
The DoD Other Transaction Authority Workshop kicks off August 5, 2020. To find out more information, or to register, visit https://go.usa.gov/xfnbm.
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