Commercial-Off-The-Shelf Acquisition: Their Value in Defense

  • Colonel Gail Lynn Washington

In an austere fiscal environment, Commercial-Off-The-Shelf Acquisition (COTS) offers an acquisition alternative to support a ready and modern force in the twenty-first century. The decision to use COTS is not always an easy choice; but chosen appropriately, COTS reduces developmental time and costs. It is a quick means of acquiring capabilities from a broad commercial base. Its value has been affirmed in rapid acquisition programs designed to support our Warfighters in the current protracted conflicts and it has proven to be a force multiplier that has enhanced both force lethality and force protections. The acquisition process of design-and-integrate must be analyzed thoroughly to consider all other alternatives before selecting COTS as the best options. Greater use of COTS increases competition, innovation and enables the acquisition community to fill gaps in capability. COTS frequently gives program managers the flexibility to control cost, to minimize schedule, and to gain assured performance. Changing the culture of the acquisition community remains the biggest obstacle for making optional use of COTS. Senior leadership oversight can critically support implementation of a COTS-centric acquisition process.