Army leverages its buying power by not standardizing

Army leverages its buying power by not standardizing

The Army's Dave Borland says the service is architecture' not product'oriented.

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Army officials, unlike their counterparts in the Air Force and Navy, want to avoid standardizing on particular products.

'The Army has never believed in product standardization. We want to let [industry] fight for [our] business,' said Dave Borland, the service's deputy chief information officer.

The Air Force has standardized on Microsoft Exchange for the Defense Message System, and the Navy has adopted Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 as a standard under the Information Technology for the 21st Century program, but Army officials do not plan to follow suit, Borland said.

Army officials, however, like to negotiate blanket purchasing agreements for particular products, such as Oracle Corp. relational database management systems, which they did through the Defense Department Enterprise Software Initiative, Borland said.

'We're taking advantage of our buying power,' he said.

Army officials also recently negotiated a BPA with Telos Corp. of Ashburn, Va., which is supplying IBM Tivoli network management products.

'There are some people who think it's an effort to standardize,' Borland said. 'It's not. We're architecture-oriented, not product-oriented.'

'We'll continue to look for more opportunities where they make sense,' he said.

One such opportunity, a proposed site license for firewall and intrusion detection products, was canceled early this summer after months of delays and false starts. Army officials have scheduled an information assurance industry event for Nov. 4 and 5 in the Washington area to 'open very frank discussions between the Army and industry to come to a meeting of minds,' he said.

Borland denied reports that Army officials wanted security products that could run under 17 operating systems. Instead, the service wanted ones that could run under the top five systems, including Hewlett-Packard HP-UX, IBM AIX, NT and SunSoft Solaris, he said.

'We're looking at what we did [and why we] got the result we got,' Borland said. 'To have it turn out that way was very disappointing,' particularly for Army officials who traveled to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to spend days evaluating particular products and bid proposals.

The Army is not as far along as it would like to be with migration from AUTODIN to DMS, Borland said, although he would not supply specific figures on DMS migration. It was unclear what the Army's contingency plan is for AUTODIN users if they will have to use the messaging system after Jan. 1.

No thin clients

Although Lt. Gen. William Campbell, the Army's chief information officer, mentioned in a May speech that service officials want to seriously consider deploying thin-client technology, Borland said no pilots were planned.

'You don't just switch an organization as large as the Army very easily,' Borland said.

Despite a General Accounting Office report that was critical of Army efforts to digitize the battlefield, Borland gave a strong endorsement to the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below program.

Army FBCB2 officials have received good test results on their tactical Internet work, which involves frequency hopping when troops move through mountainous terrain, Borland added.

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