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Use of Decision Frameworks in DoD International Acquisition Efforts

Use of Decision Frameworks in DoD International Acquisition Efforts

Frank Kenlon (Prof of Int'l Acq, DAU/DSMC-Int'l)
One of the major challenges that DoD acquisition workforce members face in their daily activities is translating theory into practice. At Defense Acquisition University (DAU), we support DoD acquisition efforts in a number of ways -- including Foundational Learning courses, Workflow Learning online resources, and Performance Learning mission assistance efforts -- to help acquisition professionals employ broad critical thinking skills and deep International Acquisition & Exportability (IA&E) domain knowledge to accomplish complex tasks in the workplace.

This blog will focus on recent experience in using DAU Decision Frameworks to help a DoD Component International Programs Organization (IPO) and Program Management Office (PMO) establish an important new IA&E transaction.

Tackling an International Acquisition Challenge

Last fall, a DoD Component IPO and PMO were tasked with establishing a new International Cooperative Program (ICP) with a key ally on a major program. The development and negotiation of ICP International Agreements (IAs) are based on policies and procedures contained in DoDI 5530.03 (International Agreements), DoD 5000 series policy, and the Defense Acquisition Guidebook Chapter 1 IA&E Supplement. Since the IPO and PMO had limited knowledge and experience in how to establish a new ICP IA for a major program, they asked DAU’s International Center for mission assistance support.

The ICP IA process is complex and challenging regardless of the type of cooperative acquisition program being considered. Fortunately, DAU’s ACQ 380 International Acquisition Management course introduces students to two Decision Frameworks (DFs) – Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement (SA&E) and Interest-Based Negotiation (IBN) – that are particularly well suited to the development and negotiation of ICP IAs. Here's how this DoD Component IPO and PMO have been able to translate theory into practice in today's DoD international acquisition environment using these two DFs.

Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing

Once the requirement for a new major cooperative program was identified and validated, the DoD Component assigned two Level III International Acquisition Career Path (IACP) members to lead the ICP IA development effort. One of these individuals had completed DAU’s ACQ 340 (Advanced International Management Workshop) course and the other had completed ACQ 380 (International Acquisition Management) so they were both generally familiar with SA&E and IBN DF concepts and principles. They used these DFs to tackle the challenge at hand as follows:

Phase 1: The first step in the process for a major program ICP is forming an IA Team comprised of a Chief Negotiator, PMO Lead, Lawyer, Foreign Disclosure Officer and other Integrated Product Team (IPT) Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) including Contracts, Business/Financial Management, and requirements, programmatic, technical, and product support personnel. The Chief Negotiator and International Manager in the IPO and PMO used the SA&E DF to identify and engage organizational leaders and persuade them to assign key personnel to the ICP IA Team.

Phase 2: Once the IA Team was formed, the Chief Negotiator and International Manager provided IA Team members with the DoD International Agreement Generator and other relevant IA model texts to begin development of a Summary Statement of Intent (SSOI) and draft IA. The various paragraphs in the SSOI address various ICP areas of interest to DoD and Interagency stakeholders. The IA Team used the SA&E DF to learn about the broad spectrum of stakeholder interests involved in a major program ICP – political-military considerations, operational planning, capability requirements, program management, financial, contracting, technology security & foreign disclosure, industrial base, etc. -- to ensure that the SSOI adequately addressed them.

Phase 3A: After the initial version SSOI and draft MOU were completed, the SA&E DF was used to identify all of the key internal stakeholders that needed to be engaged prior to and during internal DoD Component coordination. They also used the IBN DF to address ambiguities and reconcile any divergent views raised by DoD Component stakeholders during the internal coordination process.

Phase 3B: In parallel with Phase 3A efforts, the IA Team used the SA&E DF to organize and conduct Exploratory Discussions with partner nation counterparts on the key themes and overall objectives and scope of the proposed ICP. They used Power Point presentations to engage in programmatic and technical discussions with key partner nation stakeholders to identify areas of convergence, ambiguity, and divergence using IBN DF concepts and principles.

Phase 4: Upon successful completion of Phases 3A and 3B, the IA Team revised the SSOI and draft MOU and obtained to DoD Component Acquisition Executive approval to send a formal Request for Authority to Develop (RAD) the ICP IA to Office of SecDef Acquisition & Sustainment/Int'l Cooperation (A&S/IC) for OSD-level coordination.

Progress to Date

The first four Phases took the IA Team about five months to complete, with 2/3s of this effort conducted under COVID-19 teleworking restrictions. The IA Team conducted hundreds of hours of ‘virtual engagement’ with over 25 different internal DoD and external partner nation stakeholder organizations to identify and address their various interests in the final RAD package sent to A&S/IC.

From my perspective as a DAU mission assistance provider, I found the DoD Component IA Team’s ability to adapt and employ the SA&E and IBN DFs to the development and negotiation of a complex, high value ICP IA -- despite the disruption of COVID-19 -- nothing short of amazing. I wasn’t convinced at first that SA&E and IBN principles could be implemented solely through virtual engagement, but once the IA Team transitioned from norming to performing using these DFs they have been on a roll!

Next Steps

Those with a classical orientation have compared the ICP IA process to The Odyssey, a lengthy journey involving many trials and tribulations. The DoD Component IA Team still has to:

  • Defend the RAD package during OSD coordination.
  • Negotiate the OSD-approved draft MOU with their partner nation counterparts.
  • Submit and defend a Request for Final Approval (RFA) package during OSD/Interagency coordination.
  • Complete Congressional notification.
  • Organize and obtain IA signature by DoD and partner national counterpart senior officials.
  • Begin actual IA implementation (personnel, money, contracts, etc.)

As you can see, more opportunities to use SA&E and IBN DF concepts and principles await them.


Fortunately, many other IA Teams have completed this lengthy journey and established numerous major program ICP IAs beginning with the original NATO SeaSparrow program in the 1960s followed by numerous others including Rolling Airframe Missile, MK-48 Torpedo, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Wideband Global Satellite, P-8A Poseidon, and MQ-4C Triton. Partnership programs like these have operated for decades and provided the U.S. and its allies/friends with evolving national and coalition defense capabilities that can be supported and sustained on an affordable basis.

Odysseus’ legendary journey took 10 years. Hopefully the rest of this DoD IA Team’s journey will only take another 6-9 months. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to provide DAU mission assistance support them until they reach their destination.

Until next time, Prof K