Microsoft pact with Air Force could be model for DOD

An enterprisewide software and services agreement the Air Force has signed with Microsoft promises to save the service more than $100 million in direct costs and an undefined but significant amount through indirect costs, according to Air Force CIO John Gilligan.

But the cost savings were not the primary reason for entering the multi-year, $509 million contract, he said.

'The major driver was probably security,' Gilligan said. 'We predominantly rely on commercial hardware and software' . We were spending more money patching and fixing' security flaws than buying new products. But as all the services move to the concept of network-centric warfare, 'we can't stand the vulnerability of having a flaw that doesn't get patched and [then gets] exploited at the wrong moment.'

As part of the agreement, the Air Force will implement within 18 months a network policy of 'comply or you can't connect,' Gilligan said.

The Air Force is 'in discussions' with the Defense Department about whether the agreement is a model for all the services, he said. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, head of U.S. Strategic Command, 'is beginning to look at these concepts.'

The agreement actually is two contracts. The first, for products, consolidates 38 different software license agreements throughout the Air Force. The second, for support services, consolidates seven previous service contracts.

To implement the agreement, Gilligan said the Air Force will shift its more than 525,000 desktop computers to three predetermined configurations. All software on the computers will be preconfigured with security settings specific to Air Force requirements.

Microsoft will be responsible for identifying vulnerabilities and implementing fixes across the enterprise. 'We have moved from an era of 'buyers beware' to holding manufacturers accountable,' he said.

Gilligan also said this may be a good vehicle to implement share-in-savings.

Currently the Air Force has about 50,000 personnel providing software and network support. The agreement should allow for more efficient use of those personnel. 'We should get significant economies ' probably larger than the hard savings,' he said. And the Air Force and Microsoft will be seeking ways to improve the productivity of end users, generating more savings.

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