Air Force signs three BPAs for rugged portables

The Air Force Standard Systems Group last month signed three blanket purchasing
agreements for rugged portable PCs.


Cytec Corp. of Dallas, Government Technology Services Inc. of Chantilly, Va., and
Inacom Government Systems of Fairfax, Va., will supply the rugged portables to Defense
Department agencies at 5 percent to 15 percent less than their prices on General Services
Administration Information Technology Schedule contracts.


Maj. Terry Slemp, chief of the Acquisition Division for the Commercial Information
Technology Product Area Directorate (CIT-PAD) at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter
Annex, Ala., said the two-year agreements have a combined estimated value of $30 million.


SSG officials were called to a meeting at the Pentagon last month to explain their BPA
strategy after awarding six contracts in March for PCs, printers and servers, said Dorothy
Priest, an SSG contracting officer. “The meeting was about improving our
processes,” she said.


SSG drew some vendor criticism about CIT-PAD’s invitations to bidders. Sixteen
companies replied to a Feb. 1 announcement on SSG’s Web site about the rugged
portable BPA, Slemp said. CIT-PAD officials sent out 16 questionnaires and subsequently
invited eight companies to submit BPA bids on Feb. 26, he said.


CIT-PAD set the three BPAs based on best value considerations, which included technical
evaluations, past performance re-views, prices and other items, Slemp said.


An unsuccessful bidder, however, claimed the only criterion was price. “To my
knowledge, I was the only one to bid a Pentium II notebook. The other bids were Pentium
MMX,” said Ozzie Gerald, president of GSCS Inc. of Vienna, Va., formerly Grid
Government Systems.


“When I talked with [CIT-PAD contracting officers], all they talked about was
price” during a post-award telephone conversation, he said.


GTSI is reselling Panasonic Personal Computer Co. ToughBook CF-45 and CF-71 portables,
said Joel Lipkin, vice president of business development. Air Force buyers will get a 5
percent discount from GTSI’s schedule prices. The company also will sell asset
management, reporting and tracking services.


Lipkin said Defense found during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield that most
soldiers’ equipment does not need to meet full military ruggedness specifications.


“The requirement is to operate in dust, heat and rain” and to withstand
reasonable vibration and dropping, he said, not to work submerged under water, for
example.


Rugged portables such as Panasonic’s ToughBook PCs cost half the price or less of
fully ruggedized units, Lipkin said. He estimated GTSI has sold $5 million to $10 million
in rugged portables to the Air Force per year, and $40 million to $50 million to all
federal agencies.


Inacom is reselling products from Promark Technology of Annapolis Junction, Md.
Promark’s vibration-resistant portables can operate in extreme temperatures, and are
dustproof and water- and impact-resistant.


Cytec, a small and disadvantaged business, is selling its own systems. The
company’s $4,595 266-MHz Pentium MMX portable has 48M of RAM, a 2.1G hard drive, a
24X CD-ROM drive, a 13.3-inch display readable in sunlight, waterproofed keyboard and
keypad, and Microsoft Windows 98, said sales and marketing director Larry Busch.


The BPAs are in effect, and the contractors must have links to SSG’s Web site by
the middle of this month, Priest said. 


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