Air Force buy will be first to include COE

The Air Force's Global Combat Support Systems program will be
the first major systems procurement to use the Defense Department's Common Operating
Environment from the get-go.


Final price proposals for GCSS-AF, formerly known as the Base Level Systems
Modernization II or BLSM, were filed with the Standard Systems Group in Montgomery, Ala.,
by at least six bidders late last month. A single award for the 10-year contract, said to
be worth more than $400 million, is scheduled for the end of June.


Early versions of the BLSM request for proposals called for a COE concept and migration
strategy for re-engineering more than 30 legacy logistics and combat support systems.
Sources with the bidding companies said last year that they intended to propose unique
definitions of a COE as part of their overall software engineering strategies [GCN,
Nov. 15, 1995, Page 1].


In December, however, the Air Force showed bidders detailed specifications for the
Defense Information Infrastructure COE being defined by the Defense Information Systems
Agency. Soon after that, Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for command,
control, communications and intelligence, and the services' senior systems officials began
publicly endorsing the DII COE.


When DISA announced it would begin distributing free commercial components of the core
software services for the DII COE, the GCSS-AF bidders realized it would be futile to
propose unique COE approaches, industry sources said.


"I think all of us are going to bid DISA's COE," said one bidder. "That
COE is already well defined, everyone agrees that it's reasonably solid and it's obviously
going to be cheaper than anything we can bid because it's free. Also, it's the politically
correct thing to do."


Still unresolved is how bidders will supply the commercial software components of the
COE in large run-time quantities needed later in the contract's lifecycle, when tens of
thousands of users will need COE components on their PCs and workstations to run
applications.


The Air Force wants long-term enterprise licenses that will guarantee low prices,
upgrades and support throughout GCSS-AF's lifecycle, which extends for a full 15 years--10
for development, five for support. But in a market already crowded with large
procurements, such as Integrated-Computer Aided Software Engineering and Desktop V, that
offer off-the-shelf software at bargain prices, GCSS-AF bidders said they cannot easily
negotiate such licenses.


In Amendment 4 to the GCSS-AF solicitation, the Air Force consequently took the unusual
step of urging bidders to propose specific software packages available on other
procurement vehicles open to the Air Force. Bidders are allowed to incorporate these
products and licensing terms into their GCSS-AF proposal.


One glitch: The Air Force has not specified the number of users it expects to supply
with software through the GCSS-AF program.


"We're basically supposed to make an educated guess about that," said another
bidder. Several industry sources said that uncertainty, combined with the difficulty of
comparing price proposals indexed to several other procurements, might make the GCSS-AF
evaluations process a nightmare.


Teams led by PRC Corp., Science Applications International Corp., Lockheed Martin
Corp., Local Corp. and TRW Inc., and Robbins-Giola Inc. are thought to have bid on
GCSS-AF.



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