NetCents-2: The IT key to the Air Force’s net-centric mission

The Air Force’s Network Centric Solutions program is growing in size and importance.

NetCents-2, with its seven indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts, has a ceiling of $24 billion, which is nearly three times that of three times that of NetCents-1. Building on the experience of NetCents-1, it has been designed with flexibility and standards compliance in mind.

Program officials say NetCents-2 is key to the success of the Air Force’s IT mission to “deliver the right information, in the right format, to the right place, at the right time.”

Each of the NetCents-2 vehicles is highly flexible, and together they deliver capabilities across the entire range of communications, networking and telephony product and service domains that Air Force users inhabit, said Robert Smothers, chief of the Logistics and Installation Systems Branch at Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, and the NetCents-2 program manager, Overall, NetCents-2 “meets or exceeds operational net-centric requirements.”

Additionally, he said, NetCents-2 leverages the Air Force’s buying power to meet the service’s strategic sourcing goals.

The way that the user support has been formed provides a great deal of agility in meeting user needs, Smothers said. Different teams of engineers and subject matter experts are assigned to various contract categories, and they help users at the various Air Force bases as they navigate through the contracting process, one that’s become more complex over the years “with more and more instructions, regulations and requirements.”

Internally, the NetCents-2 program office works with very specific templates and user guides that list all of the various Air Force and Defense Department technical standards that have to be complied with, and these teams will help customers work with those templates. The result should be a much faster execution of orders.

NetCents-2 takes a great deal of the pressure off individual contracting officers, Smothers said. Without it, they would have to use Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15, which requires them to do market research and qualify vendors. NetCents-2 already includes that, which means they can instead use FAR Part 16, which has a more simplified task order process.

“Basically, we’ve already ensured that the vendors can do the job, we’ve done the market research, and we have the requirements analysis documents published for our government contracting officers and programs to use,” he said. “We think that, on average, it saves between 30 and 45 days so the contracting officers can move that much more quickly to make awards.”

NetCents-2 should also deliver much better “price efficiencies” than NetCents-1, he believes, since there’s a much broader range of things on offer, and a more diverse set of vendors from which users can choose. NetCents-1 used a single umbrella contract to provide both products and services, and there were only eight vendors. With NetCents-2, products are given their own contract vehicle, already awarded in November 2013, and it alone has 25 vendors.

“ [That way] we get to more of the direct sellers and original equipment manufacturers,” Smother said. “The data [as of early February] is still coming in for December and January sales, but we’re confident we’ll have a better set of efficiencies and that we’ll get better prices for our users.”