DOD budgets $250 million for COTS projects

WASHINGTON - Top Pentagon officials are restarting their dual-use technology-development initiatives with an emphasis on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in military systems upgrades.

By John Rhea

WASHINGTON - Top Pentagon officials are restarting their dual-use technology-development initiatives with an emphasis on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in military systems upgrades.

Dual-use technology experts in the Defense Department expect to begin awarding contracts in May under their Commercial Operations and Support Savings Initiative (COSSI) announced Jan. 14 by Paul Kaminski, under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology.

COSSI is one half of a revamped Dual Use Applications Program originally conceived at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and now moving to the military services. The other half is the Science and Technology Initiative (STI), which is already in the hands of the services. DOD officials have budgeted $250 million for the total effort this year.

Here`s the difference between the two: COSSI aims at inserting COTS technology in upgrading already fielded military systems, while STI looks toward implementing dual-use technology in future systems.

The new initiatives also replace DARPA`s Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP), which ran into flack from Congress. DARPA officials will monitor the existing TRP efforts, but will sponsor no further competitions.

COSSI, the larger of the two initiatives, represents $100 million available for contracts during this first round of competition. Proposals are due March 18, and the solicitation package (DARPA SOL 97-12) is available for downloading from the World Wide Web at http://www.jdupo.darpa.mil/ jdupo/. All COSSI projects are set to begin before Sept. 30.

To participate in the program, a company must team with a military service customer to create kits, based on a commercial product or process, that will maintain the performance of a fielded system while reducing its operations and support costs.

The government will share in the costs of developing and testing these kits. If the tests are successful, the company then has the inside track for supplying operational hardware.

Among the weapons systems that Kaminski says need this kind of upgrade are most tactical aircraft, tanks, and infantry fighting vehicles.

The STI effort is making $85 million available for contracts this year on a 50/50 cost sharing basis. The services will issue their own solicitations later this year.

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