Military Embedded Systems

The proliferation of COTS acronyms


January 12, 2015

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

More than two decades have passed since Secretary of Defense William Perry issued the “COTS memorandum,” dictating that the military must procure commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology. Since that time in 1994 we’ve seen budget cuts, defense buildups, sequestration, three presidents and a plethora of COTS acronym spinoffs.

Back then nobody wanted to really admit they sold COTS products, fearing the commercial part of the acronym would depict their products as something less than mil-spec, so various vendors up and down the supply chain came up with their own that they felt gave a more rugged and reliable impression than COTS – because, let’s face it, COTS is almost as much a marketing term as a procurement trend.

Over the years I’ve collected quite a few variations of COTS and compiled them a list I often use in presentations.


• GOTS: Government-off-the-Shelf
• MOTS: Military-off-the-shelf
• ROTS: Rugged-off-the-shelf
• NOTS: NATO-off-the-shelf
• For companies with space products that want to avoid the dreaded C in COTS, Ken O’Neill, director of marketing for Space and Aviation Microsemi suggested these three to me once:
– QOTS: QML class Q off-the-shelf
– VOTS: QML class V off-the-shelf shelf
– SOTS: class JAN S off-the-shelf
• KOTS: Kinda-off-the-shelf (This one was shared with me by a business development guy at Cisco many years ago)

And of course….
• ShOTS: I won’t spell this one out, but unfortunately there’s a lot of it floating around…

Please share any I’ve missed in the comment section below. There’s gotta be more out there!


From The Editor