NOT FAR AT ALL Consortia make prototyping work

The consortium model is one of the ways that the govern- ment has found to work more simply with innovative companies.

“Let me take you through the scenario,” Bob Tuohy, chief operating officer emeritus of consortium management company Advanced Technology International (ATI), said in a September interview with Army AL&T. The Navy “put out a solicitation saying that they wanted a company, a consortium management firm, to create a consortium for them using other-transaction authority so that they could get access to the latest and greatest innovators” to help do the work on the Navy's information warfare research and development (R&D) project.

“ATI won the contract, the other-transaction agreement," he said. "We went out and recruited hundreds and hundreds of companies to join this consortium, whose purpose is to respond to the Navy's information warfare R&D requirements. When you say R&D requirements, you're talking about, ‘Go out and build a prototype of a new capability.’ ”

ATI's emphasis in recruiting was "what is called nontra- ditional defense contractors,” Touhy said. “There's a definition in the law that basically says, if you're a small business, a nonprofit, or you haven't done business with the government that required the cost-accounting stan- dards for over a year, you count as a nontraditional."


When the government needs to develop a capability that’s within the consortium’s scope, it works with the consor- tium manager, ATI, and its constituents. ATI has a regular online forum for its participants, and member companies send representatives to discuss issues with the govern- ment and potential teammates to understand what the government is looking for. Tuohy said the government describes the problem sets that need to be solved, and can collaborate with consortium members.

"This is a very, very important part of it because this is something that is enabled by the fact that it’s an other transaction,” he said. Though not technically impossi- ble with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), it’s

very difficult. “You actually have these companies that know what the art of the possible is [who are] helping the government and the government’s telling them what problems need to be solved. And together they essen- tially write the solicitation."

There are 31 consortia that work with DOD, one with the Department of Homeland Security and another for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Of those, ATI manages 12.

“The government hands us, essentially, a book of technology problem statements, and we manage the consortium's response to those, and help the govern- ment start getting those problems solved.”

It costs money to make those connections and provide services to the consortia that it manages. In addition to regular meetings, ATI provides an infrastructure that consists of things like a members-only website and secure communications capability. All of ATI’s services are paid for with consortium dues.


There isn't, according to Tuohy, a single standard for how a consortium is supposed to work. “In each case,” he said, “the contracting organization of the government sets out what it wants as its requirements, if you will, for how it operates. Now, because [of] the advantage of other-transaction authority, it's an open book; the govern- ment can decide how much or how little it wants to direct the construct and the activities of the consortium.”

That said, he continued, what the government “tends to do is be very specific, although in a collaborative fashion, with how the competitive process is designed. They're all a little different. For instance, one consortium may only ask for initial white papers of 10 pages, then the merit is understood.” Then the government will downselect and ask for cost proposals. All that is directed after collab- oration with the government. “So the government sets a lot of standards for process, but not necessarily for the construct of the consortium. That sort of happens by these executive committees, with the understanding that it has to meet what the government's desires are.”


Army AL&T Magazine Winter 2022

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