DISA seeing success with Other Transaction Authority prototypes

By Jennifer Singleton
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
July 26, 2022 

When the Defense Information Systems Agency needs a leading-edge commercial solution, one approach is to acquire it through an Other Transaction Authority.

Other Transaction Authorities are different from contracts because they are not governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulation and offer greater flexibility for the research and development of prototypes.

Other Transaction Authority prototypes are where high-profile solutions like Cloud Based Internet Isolation and Thunderdome began.

After meeting with the Cloud Based Internet Isolation and Thunderdome project teams, the Other Transaction Authority team within DISA’s Emerging Technologies, Special Interest Contracts and Pricing Division, Procurement Services Directorate, began looking for solutions outside of the traditional acquisition process.

Vanessa McCollum, who heads the Special Interest Contracts and Pricing Division, stood up DISA’s Other Transaction Authority contracting processes and team in 2018.

“Working closely with the Emerging Technologies Directorate and the Defense Spectrum Organization, we pinpoint strategic efforts we want to go after and have enjoyed a high successful completion rate of our OTA prototypes,” said McCollum.

Of the more than 13 prototypes the Other Transaction Authority team has awarded, only two weren’t successfully completed, she said.

Department of Defense guidance offers flexibility by allowing other DOD agencies or services to put the prototypes DISA successfully completes into production and develop their own tenants, or instances, of the capability. 

“With OTAs, if DISA successfully completes a prototype, there’s flexibility where the Air Force, for example, can take that capability into production,” McCollum said.

In 2020, Cloud Based Internet Isolation became DISA’s first Other Transaction Authority production after a competition between two vendor prototypes in 2019.

Laurel Lashley, Cloud Based Internet Isolation program manager, said it’s “DOD’s poster child for network and browser-based security.” More than 35,000,000 cyber threats are mitigated across the DOD each month with Cloud Based Internet Isolation.

“It has been very effective in terms of identifying malicious content and keeping the DODIN [Department of Defense Information Network] and users protected when threat actors on websites are encountered,” said Lashley.

Other Transaction Authorities have provided DISA with the flexibility to find innovative solutions more quickly than traditional means. For example, the Thunderdome team approached McCollum and her team for help to make DOD’s network more secure. An Other Transaction Authority was the answer. The Other Transaction Authority team received the Thunderdome requirement in June 2021 and DISA made the award in January 2022.

Part of DISA’s success with Other Transaction Authorities is the care taken to ensure the authority is used correctly for prototyping and the production is awarded after successful prototype completion. The Other Transaction Authority team works closely with DISA General Counsel at Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization to ensure the agency is using authority appropriately and maintains the authority to continue to reap the advantages Other Transaction Authorities have provided to enhance mission effectiveness.

DISA has two prototypes currently in source selection and five prototypes in production.

“We have awarded new and varied capabilities that have benefited the department,” said McCollum. “The OTA team is dedicated to enhancing DISA’s mission effectiveness, the DOD and ultimately the warfighter by bringing new technologies to secure our networks and deter cyber threats.” 

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