A Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) is for when you have a problem but don’t quite know how to solve it. CSOs let companies come to you with what they think the solution is to your problem. Instead of you spending your off-duty time trying to solve a problem you are facing, CSOs let commercial industry compete to solve your problem for you.
CSOs allow commercial industry to rapidly respond to your problem statement with a simplified “pitch” that is much leaner than traditional contract proposals. You are empowered to maintain ownership of your problem throughout the entire process and, as the expert on your problem, will help to evaluate the solutions industry brings to you.
You will likely see a wide variety of solutions proposed to your problem statement, increasing your knowledge of the existing commercial solution space. You are under no obligation to fund any of the proposals that you receive.
Once you select a solution to your problem statement and sign the contract (often during a single pitch day), you immediately begin partnering with your vendor to deliver that solution. Typical end-to-end turnaround times from problem statement to vendor partnering are as fast as 2 months.
You need to develop your problem statement. It helps industry to solve your problem if they understand your organization’s mission, so include a description of that too. We have attached several examples of good problem statements below.
Partner with your contracting office. Take your problem statement and mission description to your contracting office and see if a CSO is the right solution for you. Even if a CSO isn’t the perfect fit, there are many different contracting avenues that can potentially meet your needs.
- Spark Cell Leaders (target audience for this guide)
- End Users
- Subject Matter Experts
- Contracting Professionals
- Finance Professionals
- Public Affairs
Link to CSO example solicitation: Air Force Operational Commercial Solutions Opening Announcement
- SAF/AQC CSO Policy Memo 18-C-03
- Air Force Approval of Unusual Contract Financing for CSOs
- AFPD 1-Page Contract Deviation
Joint Base MDL accepted former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein’s innovation challenge to ‘Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Fast’ with its first-ever Joint Base MDL Pitch Day event. Ten small businesses pitched their innovative technology to Joint Base MDL leaders and five of them walked away with a one-page contract in hand and an initial payment in the bank.
At the Joint Base MDL Pitch Day on June 10, 2019, the 87th Contracting Squadron awarded five one-page contracts for innovative products and services. While the Pitch Day event was a huge success, the goal was to deliver technology to increase readiness and lethality across the joint base. Many of these products have been delivered and Airmen are already testing them on the flight line and in their work centers. Companies who participated in Joint Base MDL Pitch Day, including those who were unsuccessful, are finding new opportunities to provide their technologies to Department of Defense customers.
Podcast: In Spring 2019, the 87th Contracting Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst took on Air Force Leadership’s innovation challenge to “Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Fast” by hosting the first-ever base-level Pitch Day event using a Commercial Solutions Opening. In this episode, 87th Contracting Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Clark leads a discussion with the Contracting Officer and Contract Specialist that executed the effort, Tech. Sgt. Dustin Golden and Maggie Falkner.
Keeping with the innovation initiatives set by the Air Force, the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base hosted its second pitch day event Jan. 22, in Tampa, Florida.
TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Security, Medical, Engineering, Human Resources, Communications, Business Systems, Logistics
DESCRIPTION: The 87th Air Base Wing is a team of mission-ready warriors and professionals delivering innovative Agile Combat Support, enabling a full range of missions across Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Operations include maintaining security of the base, maintenance of communications infrastructure, facilities construction & maintenance, medical clinic operations, procurement, accounting, logistics, human resources, food services, community services, and media relations. The Air Force wishes to stay at the cutting edge of these various functions and technologies and is looking to partner with innovative small businesses that may have solutions to Air Force challenges. The areas listed below are general challenge areas that the Air Force is interested in novel solutions:
- Base Security Systems
- Inventory Management Systems
- Emergency Management tools & systems
- Autonomous pickup and delivery of small parts and supplies
- Drone detection capabilities over large areas
- Transportation solutions: around base & commuting to work
- Smart City technologies
Additionally the Air Force has a number of specific challenges that require tailored solutions:
- JBMDL has hundreds of community events each month. Most of the information is passed through emails, flyers, and separate websites/social media of each organization on base. Interested in streamlined platform to communicate and organize this information, including gamification or other approaches to increase attendance.
- Most organizations have multiple legacy systems requiring users to access each of the systems to consolidate information. Interested in ways consolidate access and inputs to these systems in a single user friendly interface.
- A solution for members to anonymously connect to a Chaplain via an app or another medium to reduce the barriers for members to obtain spiritual guidance.
- Organizations receive customer inputs via a pdf and manually generate multiple documents using information in the pdf. Interested in ways to automate the creation of those documents.
- Tools for automating data collection & visual display of executive-style dashboards.
- Digital Path Finder
- MEDICAL Equipment - Tracking and Accountability
- 87 Medical Groups is interested in a capability related to patient check-in (perhaps self-check in) that can link to Aeromedical Services Information Management System (ASIMS) and our Electronic Health Records (EHR) to identify whether our Active Duty (AD) patients have individual medical readiness (IMR) requirements. In a similar vein, a capability to identify/collect/update Third Party Collections information for our non-AD population (dependents and retirees) and automatically populate or generate the form (DD Form 2569) with the required information.
- Smart City technologies
- Transportation solutions around base & commuting to work. The Air Force has a number of specific challenges that require tailored solutions: Members and dependents without privately owned vehicles are unable to access the base facilities easily, residents of base housing have trouble accessing the local areas and connecting to off base transportation methods, during peak hours (6:30 AM – 8:30 AM; 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM; 4:00PM – 6:00 PM) the gates to enter the base and housing areas have high levels of congestion.
The Air Force is interested in exploring innovative technology domains that may not be covered in the list above, so this topic is intended to also be a call for open ideas and technologies that cover other related areas not currently listed (i.e. the unknown-unknown). This topic is meant for innovative solutions to be adapted in innovative ways to meet DoD stakeholders’ needs in a short timeframe and at a low cost.