A new finalized proposed rule gives the Department of Defense (DoD) the authority to acquire commercial products and services using general solicitation competitive procedures known as a “commercial solutions opening” (CSO), according to an Aug. 17 notice posted to the Federal Register.

The new rule amends Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) Part 12 to implement Section 803 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2022, which made permanent a CSO pilot program initially authorized by Section 879 of the NDAA for FY 2017.

A CSO program is an alternative acquisition method designed to lower barriers to entry in the DoD space and attract companies that traditionally have not worked with the Federal government.

This rule marks a larger push by the Federal government to shift the way it does business. Streamlining the acquisition process for new, disruptive, innovative commercial products and services can allow the Federal government to maintain its technological edge.

Compared to traditional government solicitations, CSOs present broad problem statements to attract and maximize participation from commercial companies that may not be familiar with standard government procurement processes.

“As a result, large and small entities may be more willing to enter contracts with DoD. Therefore, DoD expects to benefit by having greater access to technologies not previously accessible,” the notice says.

Proposals submitted in response to CSOs are evaluated individually on the merits not a comparative basis, because such proposals are not submitted in response to a common performance work statement. The CSO solicitation method can result in either another transaction agreement or a traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation-based fixed-price contract, but not a cost-reimbursable contract.

Products and services acquired using a CSO are to be treated as commercial products and services. In addition, for contracts that exceed more than $100 million resulting from a CSO, contracting officers must obtain senior procurement executive approval.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.