Unanswered questions linger for Army portal

Unanswered questions linger for Army portal

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

The Army's request for proposals for the massive, $600 million Army University Access Online portal came down to the wire last week with issues unresolved.

'They're still in the process of answering a million questions,' said Robert Jaynes, a retired lieutenant colonel who heads up a prime contracting team for A&T Systems Inc. He is a regional vice president for the Silver Spring, Md., company.

Possible prime bidders include DynCorp of Reston, Va., Electronic Data Systems Corp., General Dynamics Corp. of Falls Church, Va., and IBM Corp., as well as smaller companies such as A&T.

More help

The potential prime contractors all are 'looking for other companies that can fill in their missing links,' said Beverly B. Swanson, vice president of education and training at Aspen Systems Corp. of Rockville, Md.

She said one obstacle is that the Army wants prime bidders to have access to an online student registration system that is already operating successfully.

Jaynes said the Army has not yet responded to many of the questions submitted by potential bidders following an industry presentation last month [GCN, Aug. 14, Page 68].

He predicted the Sept. 8 release date would slip.

Kathy Dobeck, a contracting officer for the Defense Supply Service-Washington, said the RFP will come out this week. She said she could provide no details beyond what the service has included in the draft RFP.

The solicitation is posted on the Web at www.eArmyu.com and dssw.army.pentagon.mil/dssw/index.html.

Jaynes said his company 'asked for details on providing the technical package to individuals,' referring to the legal disposition of notebook computers, printers, Internet connections and technical assistance for which the Army will hold the prime contractor accountable.

After a certain number of courses, each notebook PC and other hardware is supposed to become a soldier's property.

That raises legal questions the Army has not yet answered, Jaynes said.

To-do list

Worldwide setup, hardware warranties, repairs, software updates and technical support are all the responsibility of the winning vendor.

The Army expects about 20,000 active-duty personnel at selected locations to begin taking online courses in January toward master's, bachelor's and associate degrees or technical certifications.

About 25 percent of all soldiers enroll each year in post-secondary education programs, according to service estimates.

Jaynes said another unresolved issue is that government payment regulations differ for active-duty and reserve personnel under the Army's continuing education system.

'The reserve will join in this initiative later,' he said, 'and it will be very involved for the integrator to take over two different payment processes.'

Reservists' education fees are reimbursed afterward; those of active-duty soldiers are paid up front, he said.

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