What to Know About DOD’s New Adaptive Acquisition Framework, Part 2

Published: August 05, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisAcquisition ReformDEFENSEPolicy and Legislation

New guidance focuses on software development, business systems acquisition, and services acquisition.

Key Takeaways

  • New acquisition pathways encourage the use of commercial-off-the-shelf and, in some contexts, cloud service solutions.
  • DOD wants to leverage automated solutions for software development to the farthest extent possible.
  • The Acquisition of Services pathway is intended to maximize the use of small businesses for Defense needs.

Last week’s post summarized the first three acquisition pathways listed by Ellen Lord, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, in the Department of Defense’s new the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF). The AAF pathways are as follows:

  1. Urgent Capability Acquisition
  2. Middle Tier Acquisition
  3. Major Capability Acquisition
  4. Software Acquisition
  5. Defense Business Systems
  6. Acquisition of Services

This week’s post describes pathways 4-6 and offers some suggestions concerning why DOD’s adoption of these pathways may be important to the contracting community.

Software Acquisition (SA)

Intended “to facilitate [the] rapid and iterative delivery of software capability (e.g., software-intensive systems and/or software-intensive components or sub-systems), DOD’s new Software Acquisition pathway “integrates Agile Software Development, Development, Security, and Operations (DevSecOps), and Lean Practices.” Defense customers will use “small cross-functional teams that include operational users, developmental and operational testers, software developers, and cybersecurity experts.” These teams will “leverage enterprise services to deliver software rapidly and iteratively to meet the highest priority user needs.” Most importantly for industry, these teams combine government and industry personnel while leveraging “automated tools for iterative development” to build, integrate, test, produce, certify, and deploy capabilities to operational environments.

Contractor Implications

This pathway should benefit Platform-as-a-Service cloud service providers authorized to do work with the DOD. Defense spending on PaaS nearly tripled from FY 2017 to 2019 and Congress has put pressure on the department to increase its use of PaaS to reduce software development costs. Also, expect DOD to continue exploring new and automated solutions for software development.

Defense Business Systems (DBS)

The DBS pathway is used to identify “existing commercial or government solutions that could be adopted to satisfy DOD needs.” Defense buyers must review business processes and “revise them to align more closely with commercial or government information technology best practices.” Buyers must also ensure that “customization of a selected information technology solution is minimal,” putting a tighter focus on using commercial-off-the-shelf software that has been successfully demonstrated in the commercial marketplace.” This pathway applies to defense business capabilities and their supporting business systems, including those with “as-a-service” solutions: 1. Financial and financial data feeder; 2. Contracting; 3. Logistics; 4. Planning and budgeting; 5. Installations management; 6. Human resources management; 7. Training and readiness systems. Importantly, the DBS pathway may be used to acquire non-developmental, software intensive programs that are not business systems.

Contractor Implications

The DBS pathway reinforces a trend toward leveraging COTS already in evidence across DOD for several years now. Alignment with government IT best practices also hints at the increasing importance of GSA’s Category Management (CM) to DOD as CM is intended to promote the use of commercial solutions, including cloud services.

Acquisition of Services (AS)

The purpose of this pathway is to “identify required services, research potential contractors, contract for services, and manage performance on services. The seven steps of this pathway are grouped into three phases: 1. Plan (team formation, strategy review, perform market research); 2. Develop (define requirements and develop acquisition strategy), and 3. Execute (execute strategy and manage performance). Services included under this pathway are “construction, electronics and communications, equipment, facilities, product support, logistics, medical, research and development, and transportation.

Contractor Implications

Limited. The AS pathway resembles DOD acquisition practices as they currently stand. One interesting aspect of the AS pathway is that is lists definition of the requirement as secondary to creating a strategy and performing market research. It is difficult to understand how market research could be conducted without at least a pre-existing idea of the requirement needed. One aspect of AS that DOD makes clear is its intent “to provide the greatest opportunity for … small business capabilities.”