Navy centralizes buys for mobile devices and services

The Navy has issued a policy mandating use of either the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet or contracts held by the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in San Diego to buy cell phones and other mobile devices and services.

The new policy, approved by John Young Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, took effect last month for new contracts.

'In no case shall this equipment or service be obtained under any other contractual vehicle,' Young noted in his memorandum.

Steven M. Ehrler, the Navy's program executive officer for IT, said centralizing the buys will give a better idea of what the Navy spends each year on wireless devices and services.

Previously, employees bought mobile phones, services and personal digital assistants in a decentralized way, through many contract vehicles, Ehrler said.

'Now we're taking more of a corporate perspective. How much of this do we own? How much do we buy?' he said. 'This is kind of the start for the overall process to try to economize in all respects the procurement of mobile services.'

The Navy also is reviewing a similar arrangement for server buys, Ehrler added.

The policy evolved from top brass' request that the service be able to itemize its spending, he said. Ehrler described the program as part of a broader effort to review existing IT commodity contracts, see how they interrelate and create a corporate management perspective.

Not everyone favors the initiative.

'When industry follows this model, they have flexible, responsive capabilities. The government construct will move the Navy from satisfying re-quirements in hours or days, to months. We've proven it with NMCI already, and we'll prove it again with this initiative,' said one Navy employee who requested anonymity.

Ehrler said that by consolidating mobile equipment and services purchases, the Navy has the potential to achieve economies of scale and to drive prices down. Another boon: better security because the Navy knows its assets, he added.

Slower procurement?

Ron Swecker, the Navy's project director for the initiative, conceded that the two contract vehicles are limited and that it might take longer to procure devices and services because of requirements. But, he said, the Navy put as much flexibility as possible into the vehicles and most commercial technologies available at stores can be bought through the two deals.

'The organization wishing to make a procurement would look at both contract vehicles and the options offered, make a business decision on the different aspects that meet their specific needs and follow through the procurement process using the structure that both organizations have built,' Swecker said.

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