Army wants to go big with Small Computer Program

Army CIO Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle has issued a draft policy that makes use of the buying vehicle mandatory beginning Sept. 30.

The Army plans to flex its IT purchasing muscle at the start of fiscal 2006 by using bundled purchases to get IT hardware products at reduced rates.

Following the success of the Air Force IT Commodity Council, established in June 2003, the Army recently decided to mandate twice-yearly commodity buys of PCs, laptops and other hardware devices through the Army Desk- top and Mobile Computing procurement vehicle.

The Army Small Computer Program in Fort Monmouth, N.J., runs ADMC. Buys will be made in March and April, and at the end of each fiscal year.

'This is the number one priority of the Army Small Computer Program,' said Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems (PEO EIS).

The Army has closely followed the Air Force model of quarterly, consolidated IT purchases but will adapt it to suit the Army culture, which is much larger and more decentralized than the Air Force's, Carroll said.

'We like their model. We recognize it will save us a lot of money,' Carroll said. 'But Army needs are somewhat different.'

A draft policy issued this month by Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, the Army's CIO, makes use of the buying vehicle mandatory beginning Sept. 30. The Army received industry feedback on the policy and is now circulating it to the major commands, program executive officers and directors of information management for comment, according to ASCP assistant program manager Michelina LaForgia.

The Army expects the commodity purchases to save money, promote enterprise solutions, enhance interoperability and improve security, she said.

This fall, the ASCP will award the Army Desktop and Mobile Computing 2 contracts under a $5 billion, 10-year, multi-contract vehicle. The Army will buy from the winning contractors' offerings.

'Gen. Boutelle's desire was to save money for the Army. We should be buying everything as a commodity,' LaForgia said.

In the Air Force, the IT Commodity Council, based at the Standard Systems Group, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., has become a model for aggregating purchases across the Defense Department.

The Air Force lets other military agencies buy hardware using the IT Commodity Council's vehicle. The Army buys, however, will only be available to the service, officials said.

'The Army is leveraging the buying power of the Army to reduce costs for desktop and notebook computers,' said Brian Rieth, an Army Small Computer Program product leader. 'The experience the Air Force had with other agencies coming in wasn't very successful.'

There will be some exceptions allowed to the consolidated buys, LaForgia said.

'If your requirement does not fit the commodity buy, you don't have to use it,' LaForgia said, explaining that some tactical users require computer systems immediately and can't wait for the semiannual buys. 'If your requirement fits within this timeframe, you must use this vehicle.'

Carroll added that ADMC is one of seven 'building-block' procurements his division is managing for the Army.

The other procurements are:
  • The Army Knowledge Online portal, for which PEO EIS picked up responsibility this month from the Network Enterprise Technology Command. AKO is the enterprise portal for the Army, and Boutelle will 'force people to put applications behind it,' Carroll said. The Army expects to award the AKO contract by June 30.

  • Infrastructure Modernization, known as IMOD, will update the fiber-optic cable and wireless communications lines at major Army bases and installations. The RFP is behind schedule 'due to priority changes in 2005,' Carroll said, but will be released within the next four months. IMOD is expected to cost roughly $4 billion, and the Army is hoping to award up to eight contracts.

  • Worldwide Satellite Systems will bring Combat Support System Very Small Aperture Terminals to troops on battlefields in Iraq. Last fall, the Army began using the CSS VSAT terminals in Iraq and by the end of fiscal 2006 will field more than 700 of the systems. The units include Glo- bal Positioning System receivers, motorized satellite antennas and notebook computers running special logistics applications. The systems are easy to use, take about 30 minutes to set up, cost about $75,000 each and let troops send requisitions for parts electronically, Carroll said.

  • Biometrics. The Army's PEO EIS will try to pull together biometric data combed from databases in Iraq and keep it in a centralized system. Carroll said the biometrics program, expected to receive emphasis in 2006, will utilize enterprise systems.

  • Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-2 Services is a consolidated contract vehicle for products and services with a $20 billion ceiling. ITES-2S, which will run for nine years, is a follow-on contract to the original ITES program. The Army plans to release a request for proposals on ITES-2S by the end of this month and award the contracts Oct. 18. The Army tapped 17 companies to compete for contracts.

  • Enterprise Software Initiative is intended to consolidate requirements and establish enterprise agreements with vendors to save on software by buying in bulk.

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