Sick of the COTS acronyms yet?

By Courtney Howard
I reported a story last year on the benefits of using custom-designed electronics over COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) products. Since Secretary Perry issued that COTS initiative in the 1990s many different acronyms have entered our vocabulary as defense suppliers tried to get a handle on how they and their products fit under COTS.

The intent was to eliminate excessive spending that brought about those infamous $600 toilet seats and $400 hammers. While that has been accomplished it seems we have also tortured our language with excessive acronyms.

When COTS was first introduced, many companies created marketing synonyms such as MOTS (military-off-the-shelf), ROTS (rugged-off-the-shelf), and GOTS (government-off-the-shelf). This was mostly marketing mumbo jumbo and all the terms were basically COTS. Some new terms include MOTS, now called modified-off-the-shelf, NOTS (NATO or niche off-the-shelf), KOTS (kinda-off-the-shelf) and the all encompassing other COTS (custom-off-the-shelf).

Many COTS vendors say that their customers typically choose a product from parts list and ask for it to be tweaked for their specific application. This is where the term custom off-the-shelf is coming from. Another way to describe it would be value-added COTS.

Basically everyone has a different definition of COTS from the military program manager all the way down to the component vendor. Maybe it is as one defense supplier says, "COTS is whatever my customer says it is."

What I'd like to know is how do you define COTS?

Is there an acronym I missed in my research?

Is it possible to write an entire paragraph entirely with military acronyms?

I dare you to try.

-John McHale

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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