ITES gains speed

By Frank Tiboni

After a slow start, the Army's major products and services contract is building momentum. With nine Information Technology Enterprise Solutions task orders awarded — and another seven pending — the service might create an ITES 2 program, according to service and industry officials.

The $1 billion program allows $500 million for equipment, called Functional Area 1, with contracts awarded to four vendors last September, and $500 million for services, called Functional Area 2, with deals signed with five firms last October.

The nine ITES projects total $6.3 million but could increase to $30.6 million once officials start to implement the projects. Army officials are also working on seven more task orders, with four close to a decision and three in the planning stage, said Steve Miller, ITES product leader and head of the Army Small Computer Program.

Army officials examined ITES from November 2003 to March 2004 to ensure that the procurement programs adhered to

performance-based contracting. The service's diligence delayed the first task order award by a couple of months, said Kevin Carroll, program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems. He is the Army's top IT program official.

IT services account for most ITES jobs. Northrop Grumman Corp. received the first ITES task order in March, a six-month, $175,000 project to update U.S. Military Academy computers to Microsoft Corp. Windows 2000 and newer operating systems and Active Directory.

"It's a small task order," said Jack Lautenschlager, corporate vice president of communications and infrastructure systems for Northrop Grumman IT's Defense Enterprise Solutions unit in McLean,Va. "The Directorate of Information Management at West Point will do a lot of the migration and enterprise standards work."

NCI Information Systems Inc. landed a $7 million deal in April to install, support and maintain a local-area network in the Logistics and Readiness Center at Communications-Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, N.J. The company, based in Reston, Va., also won a $15 million contract that month to acquire supplies and hardware; administer computer server systems, information assurance and network engineering; and maintain workstations and network equipment for the Fort Monmouth Directorate of Information Management.

But IT equipment work abounds, too. Officials in the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., want to hire a vendor by Aug. 1 to install a network storage solution and provide personnel to operate the Continental U.S. Theater Network Operations and Security Center.

The center manages the service's domestic computer systems. The winning company will also analyze and fix network security problems, according to the project's statement of objectives.

With the ITES procurements, Army officials are taking steps to fortify the service's networks. On the battlefield, armor protects vehicles from heavy fire; in the back office, IT is deployed to stay one step ahead of enemy hackers, said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information

officer.

"Although we will not relinquish command and control of these facilities, we are constantly looking at improved approaches and capabilities — for example, leveraging industry," said Maj. Gen. James Hylton, commanding general of Netcom and the 9th Army Signal Command. "These approaches embrace both manpower skills and technical hardware/software products that improve our capability to execute this critical global mission."

To improve Army business networks in the United States to better support soldiers overseas, Army officials might also use the ITES program to hire a lead systems integrator to manage Army Knowledge Online. The service will release a solicitation next month for a vendor to manage the Web portal's technical and management services. The aim is to increase efficiency and standardization by consolidating the contracts of several vendors providing these services, said Vernon Bettencourt, the Army's deputy CIO.

The Army will issue the AKO request for proposals June 15. Vendors must submit bids by Aug. 1, and the contract award is due later this year, said Bettencourt, who became the service's second-highest IT official in January.

However, an industry official doubts the Army will use ITES for the AKO procurement because the service does not want to exceed the $500 million limit for the IT services category. "You can't do anything enterprisewide in the Army for $500 million," said the official, who is a consultant to companies that work for the service.

Army officials and vendors at the Program Executive Office-Enterprise Information Systems industry day in March and at IT events in April discussed the possibility that the Army might start an ITES 2 contract to handle work volume. However, Army IT and contracting officials declined to comment.

In structuring ITES as a performance-based program, Army officials are looking for vendors to take a more active role in proposing ideas to solve the service's technology programs. They will select the best proposal, considering both the cost and the solution.

Army officials previously told vendors how to fix the service's IT problems. The new approach makes the service more nimble and flexible, which saves funds by accessing industry expertise, said Paul Dinte, president of Dinte Resources Inc., an IT consulting firm in McLean, Va. "It lets highly trained IT individuals in industry run the contracts," he said.

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