AF seeks procurement change

MONTGOMERY, Ala.--The goal of an 18-month procurement cycle continues
to tantalize Defense Department brass.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, commander of the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force
Base, Mass., said ESC will adopt the computer industry's 18-month buying cycle to develop
its service-unique command and control systems.

Kadish, who spoke at the annual Air Force Information Technology Conference, warned
that the Air Force can no longer afford to operate under its current procurement practices
that on average have yielded a five-year acquisition cycle for C2 systems.

ESC is home to the Air Force's Center of Excellence for Command and Control Systems and
manages more than $3 billion in programs annually. The center plans to meet the turnaround
goal through increased reliance on commercial products and by designing and implementing
C2 systems that comply with the Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating
Environment, Kadish said.

A recent ESC survey of its programs offices found that 67 percent of hardware and 42
percent of software use commercial technology.

But Kadish said the command needs to go further in adopting and implementing commercial
standards and practices.

Although ESC will embrace commercial standards for C2 systems wherever possible, Kadish
said that there are areas where military-specific information technology is still

"Commercial products are not solutions that we will embrace in every case because
we do find that there are very unique military requirements that commercial products just
cannot or will not support," he said.

But Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Corp.'s executive vice president for sales and support,
said at the conference that the company wants to expand its recent business base with the
military beyond operating systems and office automation applications and into C2 systems
such as the Global Command and Control System and the Global Combat Support System.

"I think the first stop for us would be to get involved in some of the combat
supply systems," Ballmer said.

He said he'd ultimately like Microsoft to become qualified to create command and
control systems.

"It may not happen tomorrow," he said, "but it's something we'll be
working on."

Although Unix has dominated the C2 environment, Ballmer said Microsoft Windows NT can
provide C2 systems with the best of both Unix and PC environments.

"NT, in some sense, brings together the best in PCs, Windows and Unix," he
said. "People like the economics of the PC model--high volume at low price. And we
offer some of the scalability and server characteristics that Unix offers. But it's still
the basic Windows user interface application."

Balmer said he has discussed with Air Force officials the idea of Microsoft perhaps
contributing to C2 efforts and getting Microsoft products certified as DII COE-compliant.

Only Unix vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have met all
the requirements of the DII COE.

"It's very important to us that we get our products checked out and
COE-compliant," Ballmer said.

"I got a helpful earful from the Air Force as to what it would take," he

"We're trying to find an appropriate role for Window-based systems inside the
COE," Ballmer said.

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