Challenge-Based Acquisition: 5th Edition

By Stephen Roe , Ryan Novak , Justin Raines , Patrick Staresina , Marcie Zaharee, Ph.D. , Jason Kattman , Mandie Lee

The Fifth Edition of the Challenge-based Acquisition (ChBA) Handbook seeks to spur innovation and efficiency by pushing acquisition objectives into the competitive marketplace.

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Government and industry have long used challenge-based acquisition (ChBA) to spur technology. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has encouraged advances in unmanned ground vehicles by sponsoring three Grand Challenges with multi-million dollar prize pools. More than 100 teams showcased their ideas for autonomous automobiles in the 2004 Challenge. In 2012, DARPA launched its Robotics Challenge to promote the development of autonomous robotics.

Such challenges bypass traditional federal acquisition methods built around stringent specifications, lengthy development cycles, and arms-length vendor relationships. Instead, the process promotes a competitive environment, demonstrated performance, and an increased partnership with industry.

In recent years, MITRE has collaborated on ChBA initiatives to promote advances in improvised explosive device detection and network integration evaluation. We're working with our sponsors to continue to integrate ChBA into their acquisition processes, policies, and guides. We're also partnering with the White House to support the wider use of challenge-based acquisition.

This Fifth Edition of the ChBA Handbook adds three new Appendices: H, I, and J. Appendix H provides a sample challenge which can be used and tailored to exercise Agile development and DevSecOps capabilities. Appendix I provides an end-to-end checklist for preparing and executing a ChBA challenge or demonstration, and Appendix J provides a detailed ChBA use case that was conducted for USDA’s

Want to learn more? The latest edition of MITRE's popular Challenge-Based Acquisition guide is available for download. It provides a detailed description of ChBA and why it represents a superior mechanism for many acquisitions. It lays out how to construct a challenge and how to fashion the evaluation and compensation mechanisms that accompany it. It also proposes acquisition strategies that fit different circumstances and provides several case studies demonstrating successful application of ChBA.