Through $1.5 billion PCHS, VA will forge global network

VA awarded its Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software this month to Digital
Equipment Corp. of Maynard, Mass., and Sysorex Information Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va. VA
officials touted PCHS, pronounced ''peaches,''as the largest civilian agency hardware and
software buy.

Under the five-year contract, which has one base year and four option years, the two
companies will continue the networking work VA began under the $298 million Nationwide
Office Automation for the VA contract held by Lockheed Martin Corp., VA officials said.

Other agencies besides VA can buy through PCHS, which allots $988 million for VA and
puts a $494 million cap on other agencies' buys.

For office level network applications, VA officials said the department already has
made substantial progress. ''Some offices are already networked to some extent, but not
totally,'' VA spokesman Ken McKinnon said.

He said more than 400 field offices in the United States, the Philippines and around
the world are still awaiting network links to VA.

Although many of the offices have internal networks, VA wants to link every field
office to a backbone network, McKinnon said.

The PCHS vendors also will provide health care automation, electronic commerce, online
data services, wireless technology, document imaging, voice-activated computer
applications, personal digital assistants and office automation.

Digital officials said they expected to begin processing orders from VA any day now, as
soon as the protest window had passed.

The possibility of protest kept both Digital and Sysorex from publicly revealing the
technical details of their PCHS bids.

Geoffrey Stilley, vice president of Digital's federal PC division, said the PCHS
contract is the largest government contract Digital has ever won.

VA played up the pairing of Digital with Sysorex, a small business.

''It is particularly significant and encouraging that we were able to award one of
these large contracts to a small business,'' said D. Mark Catlett, VA assistant secretary
for management.

''This is a big step toward meeting our mission of providing small companies with an
equitable share of VA's business,'' said Catlett, who also is VA's chief information
officer and chief financial officer.

VA has said it will award the services component of PCHS, the Procurement of Automated
Information Resources Solutions contract (PAIRS), exclusively to small businesses.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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