Leaders at the Defense Information Systems Agency hope to use a new acquisition authority to bolster the organization’s cyber efforts.

In May DISA was officially granted what’s known as Other Transaction Authority, which allows the agency to operate outside the usual acquisition methods. The process allows for cost-sharing with vendors and aims to shorten the capability-development cycle and accelerate the transition of prototypes to the government.

[DISA authorized to speed up buys]

While DISA has not yet used the authority, cyber appears to be a good place to start, agency leaders said Nov. 6.

“It gives us speed,” John Hickey, cyber development executive at DISA, said during a media roundtable as part of DISA’s annual Forecast to Industry. “Part of the OTA parameter is it has to be an emerging type technology, as well. Those fit in very well with cyber.”

Government and industry leaders have long decried the slow pace of the federal acquisition system, noting that it does not accommodate the pace that cyber threats evolve.

[Click here to download the 2018 DISA Vision and Contract Guide]

“Generally, the reason for the use of OT authority is the government’s need to obtain leading edge technology from commercial sources, but some companies (and other entities) are at times unwilling or unable to comply with the government’s procurement regulations,” read a slide presented Monday by Scott Stewart from DISA’s contracting office.

Hickey said DISA has used OTAs in partnership with others, primarily the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUx) and Army Contracting Command. Those contracts included endpoint security products for mobile devices, two-factor authentication for system administrators and with a chip manufacturer.

But DISA has not yet flexed their muscles.

DISA’s vice director said last month that the organization is still determining exactly how it will exercise this new authority.

“One of the challenges with OTA is we actually have to build our workforce to understand how to use this capability, this contracting. We have to think differently and train to do this,” Rear Adm. Nancy Norton, DISA’s vice director, said during a panel discussion Oct. 24 at the annual MilCom conference in Baltimore, Md., hosted by AFCEA.

“We’re building up that contingent within DISA to be able to understand how to most flex this capability and authority that we have now. But we’re very excited about it.”

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

More In