Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sick of the COTS acronyms yet?

I reported a story last year on the benefits of using custom-designed electronics over COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) products. Since Secretary Perry issued that COTS initiative in the 1990s many different acronyms have entered our vocabulary as defense suppliers tried to get a handle on how they and their products fit under COTS.

The intent was to eliminate excessive spending that brought about those infamous $600 toilet seats and $400 hammers. While that has been accomplished it seems we have also tortured our language with excessive acronyms.

When COTS was first introduced, many companies created marketing synonyms such as MOTS (military-off-the-shelf), ROTS (rugged-off-the-shelf), and GOTS (government-off-the-shelf). This was mostly marketing mumbo jumbo and all the terms were basically COTS. Some new terms include MOTS, now called modified-off-the-shelf, NOTS (NATO or niche off-the-shelf), KOTS (kinda-off-the-shelf) and the all encompassing other COTS (custom-off-the-shelf).

Many COTS vendors say that their customers typically choose a product from parts list and ask for it to be tweaked for their specific application. This is where the term custom off-the-shelf is coming from. Another way to describe it would be value-added COTS.

Basically everyone has a different definition of COTS from the military program manager all the way down to the component vendor. Maybe it is as one defense supplier says, "COTS is whatever my customer says it is."

What I'd like to know is how do you define COTS?

Is there an acronym I missed in my research?

Is it possible to write an entire paragraph entirely with military acronyms?

I dare you to try.

-John McHale


  1. This is interesting. Who originated the term KOTS (Kinda Off-The-Shelf). NOt that it is original, but I used this in a presentation 2 years ago unaware that it was a defined term. Just curious.

    Keld Petersen

  2. John, you dared us to write an entire paragraph entirely with military acroynms. My boss claims to have heard such a sentence during a meeting but the closest I can find is extracted from meeting minutes stating as an action that "SM47 now TEMO. Copy of UFR to be sent to FINS2b". The odd semblence of English crept it but nevertheless totally non-sensical to the uninitiated! Who needs encryption?