Move over, Joe Industry; feds buy latest IT just like you do

Acting for the aircraft carrier group, the Space and Naval Warfare Command bought 100
Digital Equipment Corp. 200-MHz Pentium Pro machines from the BPA, which was based on
Digital's General Services Administration schedule contracts.


Larry Core, project manager for the Tactical Advanced Computer Office in San Diego,
said the new PCs can accept up to two processors and the servers can be four-way.


Quick buys of the latest products highlight the growing influence of the GSA
Multiple-Award Schedule, which increasingly offers street-competitive prices and-more
importantly-swift delivery, industry analysts said.


Equipment that formerly took months to arrive is now taking days, said Bob Dornan,
senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va.


"Government can no longer be accused of having ancient technology as a result of
the procurement process," he said.


Backlog problems like those that led the Air Force and Zenith Data Systems to call it
quits after the first year of the service's Desktop V contract have fueled the growth of
schedule buys even at the Air Force.


McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., last spring bought about 225 200-MHz Pentium Pro PCs
through Dell Computer Corp.'s GSA schedule, said Rocky Mountain, a marketing manager in
Dell's federal segment.


Schedule vendors can woo buyers with special discounts, known as spot prices, under the
Information Technology Management Reform Act that was passed last August.


ITMRA also wiped out order limits and the requirement that agencies advertise large
schedule buys in the Commerce Business Daily.


Eleanor Spector, the Defense Department's procurement director, recently distributed a
letter promoting the GSA schedule as DOD's preferred buying vehicle. This is an about-face
for the department, which had favored indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts.


As the schedules gain popularity, more and more agencies are setting up BPA agreements,
too. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month set up BPAs for PC
products and servers from BTG Inc. of Fairfax, Va., Gateway 2000 Inc. of North Sioux City,
S.D., and Dell.


The BPAs could total $50 million over three years, said Robert Kidwell, chief of NOAA's
IRM staff in Rockville, Md. Kidwell said he initially planned to award an IDIQ contract
but decided the BPAs would be easier to administer and facilitate quicker delivery.


The State Department recently asked nine schedule vendors to make best-and-final offers
on a $7 million buy of Digital Equipment workstations.


Bill Davis Sr., president of Pulsar Data Systems Inc. of Lanham, Md., said his company
was one of the finalists and State finished the process within three days.


Setting up a BPA took about two months for Keith Holman, IRS trail boss for the
Treasury Distributed Processing Infrastructure. Holman said an IDIQ procurement would have
taken four to five months longer. IRS in February set up the TDPI BPA with Sylvest
Management Systems Corp. of Lanham, Md.


Although IDIQ contracts have lost some ground to schedule buys, agencies still can
benefit from using them, said Kevin Carroll, director of the Army's
Communications-Electronics Command Acquisition Center-Washington Operations Office.


Carroll, whose office handles the Portable-2 and PC-2 IDIQ contracts, said independent
consultants hired by CAC-WOO found that buyers have an easier time configuring IDIQ orders
because their choices are limited.


He said IDIQs also let agencies establish and ensure standard architectures. They
sometimes offer better pricing, overseas support and warranty terms. But Carroll said that
protests can delay IDIQs, sometimes until their offerings are outdated. Protests, for
instance, delayed both the PC-2 and Portable-2 awards by more than 100 days.


Although a supporter of IDIQs, Carroll said CAC-WOO is considering a BPA as a follow-on
to the Army's Small Multiuser Computer II contract.


Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, recently turned to the schedule to buy Microsoft
BackOffice licenses from Government Technology Services Inc. of Chantilly, Va.


The base also plans schedule buys of routers from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose,
Calif., said Sgt. Troy Tucker, a network administrator at the base. Tucker said Goodfellow
regularly buys through schedule contracts.


Buying an item priced higher than $25,000 from schedule can cut delivery time by as
much as three months, said Shirley Garvin, a computer specialist at the Navy Computer and
Telecommunications Station in Jacksonville, Fla. Schedule orders also reduce the
administrative burden of tracking every stage of a procurement, she said.


In 1996, Garvin bought 30 Dell Pentium PCs for the Army Reserve Command, and they
arrived within 10 days. She also got quick delivery of Panasonic Communications and
Systems Co. notebooks for the same customer through GTSI's GSA schedule last year, she
said.


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