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Prototyping Using Other Transactions: Case Studies for the Acquisition Community

2020 RAND report available online at https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR4400/RR4417/RAND_RR4417.pdf Researchers reviewed the U.S. Air Force's recent experience with using the authority for other transactions for prototype projects (OTs). This authority allows the U.S. Department of Defense to develop prototypes outside of most federal laws and regulations governing contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements. Through literature reviews, interviews, and case studies, researchers reviewed recent U.S. Air Force experience in using this authority, identifying lessons for acquisition professionals and improvements for use. Participants from the cases stated that OTs provide a number of flexibilities not inherent in Federal Acquisition Regulation procurements, such as allowing for more freedom to communicate with industry, tailoring solicitations and agreements, and working under conditions acceptable to nontraditional firms. Effective OT teams respond to this flexibility by engaging in a more commercial-like manner with industry while still applying an appropriate level of discipline. However, challenges with the effective use of OTs remain. Compliance-based training methods are insufficient, and establishing institutional knowledge is difficult. Further, a compliance-based contracting culture results in personnel discomfort with necessary risk-taking. The Air Force might be able to mitigate such challenges by developing case-based training that focuses on problem-solving, facilitating OT information sharing, and strategically managing the OT workforce to include mentoring programs and provide for broader experience. To fully leverage such changes, the Air Force should continue to work toward shifting its culture to ensure that personnel using OTs are rewarded for their willingness to take risks to accomplish the mission using sound judgment.

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Prototyping Using Other Transactions: Case Studies for the Acquisition Community
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