Business Grows Quickly After Cautious Start

The Defense Department’s focus on net-centric war fighting has sharpened over the past decade. Along the way, its IT contract vehicles have become more important as a way to focus technology on that goal. Network Centric Solutions-2 (NETCENTS-2) is a critical contract vehicle to help the Air Force acquire technology tailored to its specific mission needs.

It’s also a major component of the Air Force’s “Bending the Cost Curve” initiative, announced in January 2015. This intends to help the Air Force work more closely with industry to push for greater innovation in how it develops and uses technology, and arrive at a more strategic approach to how it manages spending on such things as IT.

The current goals of NETCENTS-2 can be charted from the beginning of its predecessor NETCENTS-1, which was initially a follow-up to the Unified Local Area Networking (ULANA II) contract. That contract ended in early 2003. Over time, it has evolved to encompass a more enterprise-wide solutions tilt, with a focus on IT standardization and network interoperability.

NETCENTS-2 is a sprawling, seven-year contract with a total ceiling of over $24 billion—double that of NETCENTS-1. The NETCENTS portfolio of contracts cover five different categories: NetCentric Products, Network Operations (NETOPS) & Infrastructure Solutions, Application Services, IT Professional Support/Engineering Services (ITPS), and Enterprise Integration & Services Management (EISM). Two of those categories—NETOPS and Application Services—have separate awards both for full and open competition and small-business only, while ITPS is a small business only vehicle.

The lessons learned from NETCENTS-1 are seen as giving major advantages to NETCENTS-2. That first contract had a fairly complicated relationship between primes and contractors. That occasionally got in the way of the most efficient way of doing business. NETCENTS-2 enables a more direct working relationship.

Since its debut in 2013, the Air Force’s NETCENTS-2 family of IDIQ contracts has delivered a wide array of products and services from a variety of vendors. This is intended to help the Air Force and other eligible defense agencies standardize networks, encourage interoperability, and manage IT requirements from an enterprise perspective.

“CDW-G was ready to hit the ground running when the NETCENTS-2 Products contract went live in November of 2013,” says Amy Kosatka.  “We actively worked through our Program Management and Sales teams to communicate to our AF customer about the availability of the vehicle for their Netcentric product and solution needs to ensure a swift and positive start.”

This is the primary reason the contract has been so successful, says Sheryl McCurnin, senior manager of federal programs for CDW-G. “NETCENTS has a wide scope of product offerings that address the Air Force’s net-centric needs,” she says. “It helps the users develop their requirements entirely within a large vendor prime community who can respond with an array of possible solutions.”

Demand for NETCENTS-2 has grown over time, says McCurnin. The product offerings have also evolved as new technology such as cloud computing and cybersecurity tools have emerged in the market. “There has been an increased demand for security products, particularly network security,” she says. “With more than 1,800 manufacturers in our catalog we have the capability to put those products on the contract as the customer requests them.”

NETCENTS-2 should also benefit from having separate vehicles just for small businesses. On NETCENTS-1, there were aggressive goals of a minimum of 20 percent of the contract dollars that had to go to small business, but that was as subcontractors to primes. Boosting small business participation overall is seen by the Air Force as a way to improve competition and innovation in technology procurement.