Streamlined solicitations for innovative commercial products and services, known as commercial solutions openings are beginning to take off in the Defense Department. Even the General Services Administration’s CSO service, which is open to all agencies for a fee, so far has been dominated by Defense users.
CSOs aren’t as well known or broadly used as their procurement-innovation cousin, other transaction authority, which gives agencies the ability to strike contracts outside the Federal Acquisition Regulation for research, prototypes and production to obtain technology from nontraditional defense contractors. Eleven agencies including Defense have OT authority.
GSA’s CSO holds the potential to bring civilian agencies, most of which don’t have OT authority, the ability to reach out to and select suppliers unencumbered by the Federal Acquisition Regulation. So far, civilian agencies haven’t been biting, but Pentagon organizations are, even though they have their own CSO provider.
The very first GSA CSO customer was none other than the Defense Innovation Unit, a once-experimental buying organization that invented CSOs. Originally designed to lure emerging companies to work for the Pentagon by easing the pain of federal procurement processes, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, lost the X last summer, when it was designated a permanent outpost for testing defense buying boundaries.