Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS): Doing It Right
Gansler, Jacques S.
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In the twenty-first century, the United States will likely encounter a wide-range of threats, such as those posed by terrorists, rogue states and other non-state actors—all of whom are taking full advantage of globally available, high-tech commercial systems (e.g., from night vision devices, through secure cell phones, to satellite photos). At the same time, technology is changing more rapidly than ever before, and the DoD must learn to embrace the fact that it no longer holds a monopoly on all military-relevant technology (many of the information-intensive innovations result from commercial activities). Furthermore, the rising costs of domestic commitments, such as Social Security and Medicare, coupled with the growing budget deficits, will create an inevitable downward pressure on the DoD budget. These changes have created an urgency for transformation within the defense establishment. We believe this necessary defense transformation will be heavily dependent upon the development of net-centric systems-of-systems; the determination to achieve lower costs, faster fielding and better performance; and a realization of the potential benefits of globalization and use of commercial technology. Greater use of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) systems and components is one strategy that can enable achieving the required DoD transformation, and help to ensure American military success in the twenty-first century. Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) is a term for software or hardware that is commercially made and available for sale, lease, or license to the general public and that requires little or no unique government modifications to meet the needs of the procuring agency. Because of their rapid availability, lower costs, and low risk, COTS products must be considered as alternatives to in-house, government-funded developments.
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NPS Report NumberUMD-AM-08-129
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