AF consolidated acquisition picks up steam

'As part of the overall Air Force acquisition [strategy], we're buying as an Air Force rather than buying as individual organizations.'

' Lt. Col. Tom Gaylord.

The Air Force IT Commodity Council could be setting the tone for military IT buys.

The council, which has reaped significant benefits from setting up consolidated quarterly procurements of hardware, is being considered as a model for aggregating purchases across the Defense Department.

'As part of the overall Air Force acquisition [strategy], we're buying as an Air Force rather than buying as individual organizations,' said Lt. Col. Tom Gaylord, deputy director of the council. 'We shape the buying behavior of the Air Force to make sure we meet the enterprise needs.'

In the latest round of buys, the Air Force awarded CDW Government Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill., a purchase order for $38 million to deliver desktop minitower and notebook computers'more than 35,000 systems, all told'to 180 Air Force locations worldwide.

The Air Force didn't know what the size of the purchase would be almost until it placed the order, said Maj. Kurt Bergo, chief of the service's IT hardware acquisition team. Because the deal was the Air Force's last purchase for fiscal 2004, the size of the procurement depended on how much money was left in the service's budget.

'As each time zone hits midnight, what's not spent [rolls] to the next time zone,' he said.
The acquisition of the hardware itself is not centralized, Bergo said. Instead, the commodity council establishes standard configurations for the most commonly used hardware and software, which Air Force agencies purchase once each quarter.

'This is what the mainstream Air Force user should be buying,' Gaylord said. 'In our minds we kind of target that 80 percent of Air Force requirements will be mainstream. We are not trying to make it 100 percent; we have too much diversity, [too many] high-end engineering systems.'

Bergo said DOD is using the program as a pilot run under the department's Enterprise Software Initiative. Defense has reaped significant savings on software buys under ESI and is looking to extend such benefits to hardware procurement.

The commodity council is considering how to further enhance the usefulness of the quarterly purchases, Gaylord said.

'One of the things we're talking about, with the service provided as a part of this, is asset tagging,' he said. Asset tagging is providing standard labels with information on equipment across the Air Force to improve inventory management.

'Eventually we're looking at putting the information into BIOS and programmable features, accessed by network management software, inventory, status-checking and counting, without sending an individual out to every single desk,' Gaylord said. 'This is one of the things we'll ask the vendors to provide as part of the equipment.'

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