OTAs | Why They Work

-As shared by Meg O’Hara

In the innovation space, it’s no secret that many developing technologies are created outside of the Federal ecosystem. In fact, some of the most forward-thinking technology is housed solely within the commercial space. As that is the case, how can the government discover, adapt, and deploy new solutions without sacrificing risk-mitigation?  You guessed it, OTAs. Other Transaction Agreements are what we in the business like to call a form of “alternative procurement vehicles,” which is a fancy way of saying another method to get Federal backing for researching and developing innovative solutions. Sounds like an absolute win, right? But how does it work?  

The OTA process is designed to be more streamlined when it comes to solicitation requirements and the businesses that are competing for those opportunities. For government entities with a portfolio of needs, of the OTA consortium model is a great model to enable them to meet their R&D requirements in an efficient manner. Each agency with OTA authority has a number of specific consortia through which they are able to feed technology-vertical-specific requirements for proposals. Think of it as fishing in a large lake – if I’m only fishing for bluegill, why would I want to waste my bait (resources) and time catching a bunch of trout? I wouldn’t, right? So, in a similar way – within the research and development process of defining new solutions to innovation-heavy challenges, it makes sense to go directly to the groups that know and do that type of solutioning best. Hence, the need for technology-specific consortiums.  

The OTA process works because CMFs (Consortium Management Firms) take on administrative burdens from the government that result in a more streamlined experience for small and non-traditional businesses. It also mitigates the risk to the government of working with new-to-the-Federal-landscape businesses by having a guide (the CMF) who knows the arena, the regulations, and the requirements of Federal procurement. Additionally, and probably most importantly of all, it allows new technologies to make their way into the hands of the end users who need them most to keep our country working at a high level of defense and breakthroughs.  

We’re not saying that OTAs are the only way to mitigate risk or allow non-traditionals the opportunity to work in the Federal space. But they do provide a legal framework that enables fair, rapid procurement for R&D or prototyping needs. If you are, or know of a non-traditional business that may be able to bring their technology to our warfighters in a way that promotes safety, protection, and the ability to perform their duties at a high level, we welcome a conversation with you. You can reach out to govmates on LinkedIn or directly to our team at matchmaker@govmates.com. Furthermore, if you’d like a few specific examples of businesses that have found OTA success, we have several examples that we’d be happy to share.  

If you take one thing from this piece, I hope that it’s to know that innovation is alive and well within the bridge between commercial and federal businesses – and that bridge is OTAs.