DOD places orders for school supplies: 3,600 PCs with DVD drives for plebes

DOD places orders for school supplies: 3,600 PCs with DVD drives for plebes

Doug Afdahl

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Amid the rush of final exams and graduation late last month, officials at the three Defense Department service academies were issuing delivery orders for up to 3,600 desktop PCs with DVD-ROM drives for incoming students.

The Air Force Academy and Naval Academy chose Dell PCs; small-business vendor DTK Computer Inc. of Chantilly, Va., grabbed the U.S. Military Academy's delivery order.

The Air Force invited only General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule contract holders to bid, and the Military Academy made its purchase through DTK's IT Schedule contract. The schools generally do not have to follow Federal Acquisition Regulations because the students eventually pay for the computers.

We take advantage of the FAR and try to follow them' in the Naval Academy's best-value PC buys, said Doug Afdahl, executive director of IT services at the academy in Annapolis, Md.

In some cases academies bought PCs from vendors' government sales divisions; in others they bought through local resellers or vendors' education divisions.

Requests for proposals generally come out in January and February, after faculty committee meetings that determine new students' four-year technical requirements for each academic discipline.

Meanwhile, Coast Guard Academy officials are buying up to 320 IBM ThinkPad 390 notebook PCs, said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kmiecik, chief of information systems at the academy in New London, Conn.

The Merchant Marine Academy, which has used the same supplier for three years, is buying 290 300-MHz Pentium II Versa LX notebook PCs from Packard Bell NEC Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif., said Joseph J. Puglisi, director of the Office of Computer Resources in Kings Point, N.Y. The PCs run Microsoft Windows 98 and Office 2000, and come with 128M of RAM, 4.3G hard drives, 13.3-inch displays, DVD-ROM drives and 10/100-Mbps network interface cards.

Ship's shapes

Officers trained at the academy work in the maritime industry on oil rigs, tankers and container ships as engineers and navigators but serve in the Navy during wartime.

On June 9, Military Academy officials signed a $1.97 million contract with DTK to buy 1,200 systems, said Pat Campbell, a contracting officer at West Point, N.Y. The 450-MHz Pentium III midtower systems feature 128M of dual in-line memory module RAM, 10.2G Ultra ATA IDE hard drives, Ethernet cards and 4.8X DVD-ROM drives with MPEG II hardware decoder cards, she said.

DTK, which prevailed over four other vendors, is also supplying the academy with 17-inch Sony Trinitron SuperVGA monitors and Intel LANDesk client 2.0 software, Campbell said.

After buying PCs from Applied Computer Technology of Fort Collins, Colo., for four years, the Air Force Academy last month bought 1,200 Dell Workstation 210s with 128M of error-correcting code synchronous dynamic RAM and 13G IBM hard drives, said Larry Bryant, director of academic computing at the school in Colorado Springs, Colo. The academy made the buy through GSA's Federal Acquisition Services for Technology regional office in Denver, he said.

The $1,599 systems come with 17-inch monitors, 3Com 10/100-Mbps Ethernet connectors and 16M video cards. Academy officials will load Windows 98 on the systems.

These are college kids. They are going to play games,' said Bryant, explaining why the academy decided not to go with Windows NT Workstation 4.0, the platform preferred by most Dell Workstation 210 buyers. 'DVD is not supported well by NT,' he said.

Academy officials favored the PCs' expandable cases and motherboards, Bryant said. Three DIMMs can be added to each computer, along with an additional internal hard drive and a CD-ROM writer, he said. Software costs about $100 extra per computer, and the Air Force'like the Military Academy'is buying it through Microsoft's campuswide license.

No to notebooks

Air Force Academy officials considered buying notebook PCs but decided against them because of cost, ergonomics, maintenance, obsolescence and security, Bryant said.

The Naval Academy last month bought 1,150 Dell OptiPlex GX1 PCs that run Windows 98 and have 450-MHz Pentium II processors with 128M of RAM and 10G hard drives. The PCs have 17-inch monitors, DVD-ROM drives and switched 10/100-Mbps Ethernet NICs to connect with the 10,000-node asynchronous transfer mode campus network, he said.

Since 1986, each West Point plebe who enrolls in the fall has received a PC, said Lt. Col. Gene Ressler, associate dean for the Information and Educational Technology Division.

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