Air Force Turns to GSA Pilot for DevOps Platform

Irina Strelnikova/

The Air Force is using GSA’s Commercial Solutions Opening pilot program to speed through the acquisition process.

The Air Force is looking for an innovative DevOps platform to seamlessly integrate into its current environment and is tapping a General Services Administration pilot program to avoid having to go through the arduous processes set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

The Air Force—through a joint program between AFWERX, the Air Force Research Lab and Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center—is using GSA FEDSIM’s Commercial Solutions Opening, or CSO, pilot program to solicit bids from startups and private sector innovators who haven’t worked with the government in the past.

Rather than abiding by the FAR, which can often take months or years to get through the step-by-step solicitation process, the CSO process allows the contracting agency to issue a request for innovative solutions and fund multiple lines of research and development at the same time. This “opportunistic model,” as described by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition University, is used for non-FAR-based contracts, like those issued using other transaction authorities.

A section of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed GSA to start a CSO pilot program to help agencies buy more innovative technologies, which, for the pilot, are defined as “a new technology, process or method” or “a new application or adaptation of an existing technology, process or method.” Once a solicitation call is issued, interested parties can submit short solution statements for consideration. Those deemed within the scope of the problem are then invited to give oral or virtual presentations on their proposals. The best of those proposals are then selected for funding.

Under the rules of the CSO pilot program, no individual project can be awarded more than $10 million over the life of the contract.

The current call is for a platform-as-a-service to support app development and integration for the Joint Force Space Component Commander operations center. The solicitation asks for a mix of cloud-based and on-premise environments to “efficiently identify, modify or develop, integrate and test new capabilities, ingest and validate new space situational awareness data sources and quickly onboard the capabilities in support of the space command and control mission,” according to the opportunity notice.

The new DevOps environment will help the Air Force test apps with a focus on artificial intelligence, big data and internet of things devices, as well as help “reduce the AFRL DevOps team’s software development backlog and laying the long-term foundation and the ability for responsive depot sustainment support to the warfighter.”

Specifically, the Air Force is looking for a PaaS solution that can sit on its instance of Amazon Web Service’s GovCloud and has most, if not all, of the following capabilities:

  • Provide a model-driven software architecture with a service-oriented object interface.
  • Delivered as a PaaS.
  • Provide a data integration platform.
  • Provide a rapid application development platform.
  • Provide an application operating platform.
  • Provide a machine learning platform.
  • Provide a massively scalable distributed processing platform.
  • Provide an open, extensible software platform.

The winning vendor will also be expected to conduct an assessment of the Air Force’s current environment and provide a roadmap to integrating the new DevOps platform, along with an authority to operate—an often time-consuming process for authenticating a platform’s cybersecurity.

Solution brief proposals are due by email no later than 11 a.m. Jan. 18.