GAO: Commercial Product Development Principles Could Improve Execution of DOD’s Middle-Tier Acquisition Pathway

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The Department of Defense should follow the key principles of commercial product development to accelerate the invention and deployment of weapon systems under the middle tier of acquisitions pathway, the Government Accountability Office said.

In a report published Tuesday, GAO cited obstacles in the implementation of the MTA pathway, including unclear or inaccurate data and schedule delays due to unfulfilled requirements.

The MTA program was created in 2016 as an alternative acquisition process, with a 5-year turnaround time for weapons development until deployment. DOD established the program aiming to expedite prototyping and fielding of armaments.

The use of MTA authorities increased from 35 programs in 2019 to 100 in 2022, prompting GAO to look into MTA oversight and execution. 

Based on its review of 15 MTA projects across the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Special Operations Command, the government watchdog made 26 recommendations to ensure that the purpose of middle-tier defense acquisitions is fulfilled.

GAO referred to the key product development principles used by private companies and urged DOD branches to incorporate them into MTA policies. Specifically, DOD components should create solid business cases and apply consistent design approaches, GAO stated. They should also maximize schedule by off-ramping capabilities and less urgent requirements, and implement lessons learned from previous development processes.

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