New OTA seeks to speed capabilities to warfighters while also developing the U.S. industrial base.
by Kyle Thalmann and Tara Sarruda
Using the relatively new Cornerstone Other-Transaction Authority (OTA) provided the Project Manager for Combat Ammunition Systems (PM CAS) with two big gains: development of the vital XM1128 artillery projectile moved more quickly, and the industrial base received a welcome boost.
The XM1128, a 155 mm high-explosive extended-range unitary cannon projectile, has been identified as an important munition for Army modernization under the Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team. Long-range precision fires is the Army’s top modernization priority. Currently, the Army has requirements to deliver 155 mm ammunition that extends range from 22 kilometers to 30 kilometers, and the XM1128 projectile can meet that objective. However, the process of ramping up availability of the XM1128 posed challenges for PM CAS, part of the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
There is a critical need for the capability to load, assemble and pack the XM1128, but there is no current capability in the industrial base to perform those tasks. Similar 155 mm projectiles—such as the M864 extended-range cluster munition and M549A1 high-explosive, rocket-assisted projectile—have been out of production for decades. Against that backdrop, the use of the Cornerstone OTA was an opportunity to accelerate achievement of a critical objective within an acquisition system that is often beset with procedural headwinds.
Lengthy Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) acquisition timelines can delay capabilities from reaching warfighters in the time they’re needed. However, OTAs under the Title 10 U.S.C. 2371b provide DOD the flexibility to adopt and incorporate business practices that reflect commercial industry standards and best practices; and to reduce acquisition timelines from years to months. In parallel, DOD leaders want to improve the U.S. industrial base in order to be prepared for conflicts today and in the future.
The solution to both of these problems is the Cornerstone OTA, a government-managed vehicle supported by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Chemical Biological Center (CBC) and awarded by the U.S. Army Contracting Command – Rock Island (ACC-RI). Under the Cornerstone OTA, the acquisition timeline for execution is reduced to 55-100 business days, depending on which of three standardized solicitation processes are used. Additionally, the Cornerstone OTA fast-tracks research, development, prototyping, demonstration, qualification and integration of manufacturing capabilities and capacities into the U.S. industrial base by using several industry sectors, which a standard OTA does not provide.
The Cornerstone OTA differs from other OTAs as there is no third party involved and it is strictly government-managed. The CBC manages the Cornerstone consortium and works with program offices to develop the acquisition approach, while ACC-RI handles contracting responsibilities, including pricing, negotiations and award. This approach allows for reduced acquisition timelines while keeping costs low.
CORNERSTONE OTA BACKGROUND
Cornerstone was established by the Office of Industrial Policy through the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and was launched in February 2018 under the Title 10 U.S.C 2508 Industrial Base Analysis Sustainment Program.
Cornerstone creates a flexible mechanism for a public-private partnership across a range of industrial base sectors in order to strengthen the U.S. industrial base and improve U.S. competitiveness in support of DOD. It provides a way to bring together industry and government stakeholders through a structured engagement forum. Cornerstone consists of multilevel consortiums, and consortium members are encouraged to collaborate within their selected sector, across sectors, and with other approved interested parties.
Cornerstone’s aim is to bring together industry and government stakeholders in the diverse and currently fragmented sectors to ensure industrial base resiliency and a robust manufacturing innovation ecosystem. Cornerstone OTAs can be used in 19 technical sectors, ranging from munitions and missiles to space. Sectors can be added or removed by the government, when there are requirements that are not categorized in one of the established sectors. Cornerstone is available to all DOD military services that require OTA assistance to strengthen the industrial base for their production needs.
For PM CAS, use of the Cornerstone OTA enables an efficient and streamlined award process that will allow for the production of the extended-range projectile. It will help mitigate range and effectiveness gaps for the Army in both legacy and future cannon artillery systems, while maturing a much needed, modernized production capability that has not been available domestically for decades.
CORNERSTONE OTA ELIGIBILITY, SCHEDULE
Companies that support the industrial base under Cornerstone apply to become members of the Cornerstone Consortium, and are then eligible to bid on Cornerstone OTA initiatives. Cornerstone agreements can include cost type agreements, firm fixed-price agreements and indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity agreements, as well as base agreements and options agreements.
Unlike a FAR-based contract, the Cornerstone OTA can reduce award timelines to as little as 55 business days, once an agreements officer approves the documentation package.
The three standardized solicitation processes under Cornerstone are:
- Open 1-step solicitation (default process)—The target is 80-100 business days. Competitive request for full proposals is open to all consortium members.
- Open 2-step solicitation—The target is 90-100 business days. There is a competitive request for white papers, followed by a down-select and the request for full proposals from selected candidates.
- Closed solicitation (sole source)—The target is 55 business days. The solicitation is directed to a single offeror. It requires justification for why this approach is necessary.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION
“Communication is key” is a common phrase among top program management officials. With that principle in mind, PM CAS reached out to the Cornerstone team at ACC-RI in order to use its OTA. Although the Cornerstone OTA was new to both Picatinny Arsenal and PM CAS, the information provided by the ACC-RI team helped PM CAS better define and understand the requirements in order to see how this OTA could be used with the XM1128 project.
PM CAS’ integrated product team, which included stakeholders from PM CAS, ACC-RI and CBC, was enormously proactive and initiated meetings to understand the process and documentation requirements for the Cornerstone OTA. The team kept communication lines open throughout the OTA award process, whether it was PM CAS asking questions regarding the Cornerstone OTA process or ACC-RI requesting information from PM CAS on the technical requirements for the XM1128 load, assemble and pack effort.
All integrated product team members worked toward a common goal and held each other accountable by professionally closing out action items within the planned timelines, which culminated in an accelerated award of the load, assemble and pack for the new prototyped XM1128 projectile.
The OTA was awarded July 31 to American Ordnance LLC, located at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. The work will help strengthen the industrial base as this projectile will include propellant grains, which provide drag reduction to achieve the extended ranges for the XM1128. Currently, there is no capability existing in the industrial base to perform load, assembly and packing of a 155 mm artillery projectile with propellant grains.
With the help of the Cornerstone OTA team and the communications it had with PM CAS, PM CAS’s initiative for the XM1128 load, assemble and pack was Picatinny Arsenal’s first award under the Cornerstone OTA and only took 75 business days—from late March through the end of July 2019. That time compression helped to give impetus to the eventual goal of providing an extended-range projectile.
Compared to the FAR process, the Cornerstone OTA is flexible, facilitated a shorter acquisition time to award the contract for XM1128 loading, assembly and packing, and enabled industrial base development.
With the successful use of the Cornerstone OTA for the XM1128 effort, PM CAS plans to use it to improve both artillery and mortar industrial base capabilities.
Industrial base capabilities are more than setting up factories and production lines. They include new technologies, new processes, materials, prototypes and other technologies to increase the capabilities of the U.S. industrial base to ensure modernization of production capabilities. The Cornerstone OTA is unique in that its setup allows it to streamline the acquisition process to address critical industrial base issues across a multitude of industry sectors. With DOD and program managers needing to modernize existing weapons and create prototypes for new complex requirements to fight future conflicts, the Cornerstone OTA is the future of OTAs.
For more information relating to the Cornerstone OTA, please visit https://ibasp-public.ria.army.mil/cornerstone/.
KYLE THALMANN is an acquisition analyst for Artillery and Mortar Programs, including the XM1128 Program, for PM CAS’ Business Management Division. He holds an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology and a B.A. in accounting with a minor in international business from Penn State University. He is Level III certified in contracting and Level I certified in program management, and is a member of the Army Acquisition Corps.
TARA SARRUDA works for the Cannon Artillery Division at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center, and serves as the project officer for the XM1128. She holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering manufacturing systems from Stevens Institute of Technology and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Lafayette College. She is Level III certified in systems engineering.
This article is published in the Winter 2020 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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