Reducing Barriers to Uptake of Commercial Technology: COTS, COTS-Based, and Managed Open-Source Software

In the era of great power competition, rapidly evolving threats and geopolitical instability are reducing decision timelines. Commercial computer software offers a path to keep pace.


USGIF’s NRO Industry Advisory Working Group (NIAWG) is a volunteer group organized to address matters of strategic importance to the NRO industry base. Recognizing the presence of barriers to adoption of commercial computer software, NIAWG volunteers conducted an informal root cause assessment study. Key observations included programmatic barriers such as lack of accountability on development risk and total cost of ownership; cost of change as an inhibitor to adoption; concern over corporate viability; and budget structures and execution policies that favor development over procurement. However, the most potentially impactful observation was unintentional barriers found in acquisition solicitation documents. This paper explores solicitation language as a potential root cause underlying the challenge of incorporating commercial computer software in NRO programs. In the interest of time and minimizing organizational variables, the authors focused on Ground Enterprise Directorate (GED) solicitations with readily accessible documentation. A few solicitations outside of GED were included as available. Based on this limited data set, a more comprehensive look at solicitation language across Directorates is in order to identify contracts clauses, terms and conditions that may be ripe for improvement.


Nick Buck, Chair, USGIF NRO Industry Advisory Working Group
Sam Unger (SAP NS2)
Tim Lerow (Palantir)
Bruno Mahlmann
Douglas Hartmann (Red Hat)
Jessica O’Rourke
Anita Weber (IBM)
Marc Kriz (GitLab)
Chris Arroyo
Colin Thomas (Broadcom)
Matt Madigan (ESRI)
Jarrod Gazarek
Nicole Pierce

Peer Reviewers:
Ken Melero (Elastic)
Brendan Houlton (Ansys)
Connie Cappadonna (MicroFocus Government Solutions)
Joel Weninger

USGIF Staff:
Ronda Schrenk, Chief Executive Officer
Christy Monaco, Vice President of Programs
Sarah Ramsey, Director of Communications