A leap in connectivity for global grid

DISA sees $3 billion procurement for up to 5,000 circuits as a commodity buy

The Defense Information Systems Agency kicked off a procurement battle last week for circuits that will connect 1,500 U.S. locations to DISA's fiber-optic backbone. Industry consultants are predicting fierce competition for the four regional contracts that will be awarded.

An intense competition suits Tony Montemarano, program director for DISA's Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE). Montemarano said he views the Defense Information Systems Network Access Transport Services (DATS) procurement as a commodity buy, "which will give us the most bang for our buck."

To maximize competition, DISA plans to award up to four 10-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts covering all regions of the United States, Montemarano said. The procurement has a $3 billion ceiling, he said. The number of circuits covered by DATS could peak at more than 5,000.

Montemarano said those circuits will connect bases and stand-alone Defense Department buildings to the GIG-BE. By September, the grid will have almost 90 nodes. DATS will also provide some point-to-point circuits. DISA will handle overall management and switching services.

The DATS request for proposals asks bidders to eventually be capable of providing broadband fiber circuits operating at speeds of up to 10 gigabits/sec. DISA needs contractors to be able to supply such circuits in the future to accommodate DOD's growing bandwidth requirements, Montemarano said.

The RFP also calls for a supply of lower-speed circuits, including 3 KHz voice connections. "We would hope the vendors would bundle such circuits," he said.

The request contains an option for contractors to install circuits and network equipment on bases, which Montemarano said "could potentially be a fair amount of work."

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, compared the relationship between GIG-BE and DATS to a mainline railroad and its feeder lines. "DISA has built its own railroad with GIG-BE, and now they have to build track to all the locations in the hinterlands," he said.

Suss said he expected all the major carriers serving the federal market, including local carriers such as Verizon and long-distance carriers such as MCI, to vie for one or more of the DATS contracts.

Marlin Forbes, vice president for defense and international markets at MCI, said the company plans to bid on DATS. He pegged the contract's value at $200 million to $350 million, which is lower than early industry estimates of up to $500 million.

Forbes said that as a commodity buy, DATS precludes bidders from offering bundled options that could deliver other potential savings.

Jim McGann, an AT&T spokesman, said the company plans to submit a best-in-class bid for DATS. AT&T has the domestic Defense Information Systems Network transmission contract, which DATS will replace. Diana Gowen, senior vice president for government services sales at Qwest Communications International, said Qwest also plans to bid on DATS.

Montemarano said bidders can submit questions about the contract until July 5, after which DISA could issue amendments. Bids are due Aug. 16. Montemarano said he expects DISA to award DATS contracts before the end of the year. n

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