Other Transactions authorities (OTs) are not just a tool, nor are they about process. They are so much more and simpler than that. These authorities are about freedom! Freedom to think, freedom to experiment with different ways of doing business, freedom to be creative, and even the freedom to fail.
There is a mental roadblock that is preventing those in government from understanding OTs. There is little doubt that this is due to prior learning. Even those who are willing to think outside-of-the-box remain inside the bubble. The years continually focused on process and rules has taken its toll and dominates the government zeitgeist.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda
Demystifying OTs is a challenge. Not because they are exotic or complex, but because the current system is. Basically, OTs allow government to do business in a commercial-like manner. Many may be familiar with OTs at a cursory level, but few have taken the time to contemplate what the authorities really mean – freedom. New ideas take time to settle in before they are fully understood. Yet, these (simple) authorities remain frustratingly poorly understood and have yet to find leadership level champions outside of Congress. Congress has explicitly asked the DoD to develop a preference for using OTs for R&D and prototyping leading to follow-on production and has mandated education on the use of these authorities.
“We have fantastic people trapped in a VERY BAD system.” – Eric Schmidt, fmr. Google CEO & fmr. Chairman of DIB
OTs are a paradigm shift in the way the government thinks about doing business. This makes many who have followed, defended, and created the current system and rules very uncomfortable. Comfort is the antipathy of growth and innovation, and continually focusing on rules rather than goals severely impedes advancing the state-of-the-art and fielding new capabilities rapidly. For those who want to take care of business and get things done, OTs can be powerful and even exciting. Forget stove-pipes and the bureaucratic assembly line, OTs are all about teamwork and collaboration right from the start.
There are more than three decades of hard work poured into reports, studies, commissions by the highest esteemed professionals and leaders that unanimously point out the inefficiencies and failure of the current acquisition system. Yet, there is resistance against hard fought-for OT authorities, not coincidentally also 30 years in the making, that provide an alternative approach and the freedom said to be desired. Because OTs are less about process, again a different way of thinking, people appear stuck in the matrix, continuing to fumble around, tweaking the system or trying to force the wrong tools to work. The potential for a leap forward is staring folks right in the face. The appropriate response is not covering eyes and sticking fingers in ears or to run in the other direction. Nor is it time to reinvent the wheel… it’s time to ride!