DOD Instruction 5000.80 Operation of the Middle Tier of Acquisition
Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA), also known as section 804, was first created for the Defense Department in the fiscal year 2016 NDAA. It is intended to provide a pathway to accelerate existing technologies into products and meet emerging technology needs, more quickly than the major defense program of record acquisition process. MTA’s are exempt from JCIS and DOD Instruction 5000.1. Until recently, only interim guidance on how to proceed was available. That changed in December 2019 when the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD(A&S)) published DOD instruction 5000.80 OPERATION OF THE MIDDLE TIER OF ACQUISITION.
There are two major paths within MTA, rapid prototyping, and rapid fielding. Rapid prototyping is intended to take new technologies and turn them into working prototypes within 5 years. The DOD instruction allows for virtual prototypes if they result in a fieldable product. The services must take a merit-based approach to the technologies they consider for MTA development and they must meet the needs communicated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combatant Commanders. There must also be a plan to transition from prototype to acquisition and fielding.
Rapid fielding is intended to turn proven technologies into products, that can start manufacturing in six months and be completed within five years. While there is no dollar limit to MTA programs, any program that crosses the threshold of a “major defense acquisition program” must receive prior written approval from the USD for A&S. The program must include considerations for life cycle costs.
Source: DOD Instruction 5000.80
Each DOD Component are directed to establish their own guidelines and processes for MTA programs within 6 months of the DOD instruction. The USD(A&S) retains authority to disapprove any program. Technology development, and projects with interagency and international partners are discouraged. Several programs have been initiated using the MTA pathway. Those programs will maintain their original start date but have 60 days from the issuance of DOD Instruction 5000.80 to become compliant.