Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

The E-Mall and DOD policy

As director of the Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office, I appreciate much of what Stephen M. Ryan said in his recent column, 'DOD's e-commerce plan needs a good push' [GCN, Sept. 6, Page 20]. However, I do not believe his assertion that the process used to become a storefront on the E-Mall accurately represents Defense Department policy.

Our concept of operations uses a distributed architecture. It allows vendors to provide and maintain their own catalog data, pricing, quantities on hand or delivery days, and relevant technical data on their own servers.

Past practice did provide a centralized catalog option for small businesses or vendors unwilling to host their own data. However, this is being phased out in fiscal 2000. Vendors unwilling to host their own data will be referred to third-party catalog hosting companies. Use of the distributed architecture has always been the preferred method and is what distinguishes the E-Mall from other government catalogs such as the General Services Administration's GSA Advantage.

The E-Mall uses a commercial product to search and display the vendor data to our customers, who can make side-by-side product comparisons on one screen. Technical data provided in the participating catalogs can also be displayed at the discretion of the vendor. The only technical prerequisites for vendors to come onto the E-Mall are to allow use of the search software for cross-catalog searching and for competing products to be viewed head-to-head for price, delivery, and pertinent quality and technical features.

The search software is easily loaded onto a vendor's existing catalog, and we provide it free of charge. The E-Mall order module places the order with the participating catalog via electronic data interchange or secure e-mail. The order module can automatically aggregate purchases made across all of the stores on the E-Mall.

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There are some business restrictions that you did identify; for example, before coming onto the E-Mall, vendors must have a contract vehicle available to government purchasers that not only implements procurement regulations but also allows DOD to leverage its enormous buying power. This, we believe, is a value added service of the E-Mall process for our customers. Plus, the competitive forces will lower prices as more competition occurs on the E-Mall itself.

Claudia 'Scottie' Knott


Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office

Fort Belvoir, Va.

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