Military agencies to take part in bulk buys

Defense Department officials will allow all military agencies to participate in the Air Force's final quarterly bulk hardware buy for fiscal 2004, according to DOD officials.

The decision marks the first time agencies will join together in a hardware purchase. Members of DOD's Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) Working Group agreed in May to the program because of the cost savings achieved on computers by the Air Force Information Technology Commodity Council, said Jim Clausen, co-chairman of the working group.

"The rest of the DOD components will be able to realize lower prices" on desktop computers and laptops, Clausen said.

He lauded the council for taking bold moves to lower the service's hardware costs. "Vendors can't be happy about feeling squeezed on their margins," he said.

The Air Force saved $4 million in fiscal 2003 by conducting bulk hardware buys. And the service already avoided $500,000 in hardware purchasing costs for fiscal 2004, according to a June 7 statement from the council.

The services use the money saved to fund IT systems needed to wage the war on terrorism and conduct their network-centric warfare and transformation efforts, according to Air Force and Army IT leaders.

Air Force officials want to install more data links on aircraft to quickly share information because they believe IT will give fliers the greatest improvement in warfighting capability, said John Gilligan, the Air Force's chief information officer. Army officials will use cost savings to fund voice, video and data improvements at key installations and to create lighter, similarly sized and equipped, rapid-deployable forces called modular brigades, said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, Army CIO.

The Defense Information Systems Agency and the Army will likely participate in the Air Force's next quarterly hardware buy. Last month, the service completed its third-quarter fiscal 2004 computer buy, Clausen said.

Army officials expressed interest in taking part in the DOD hardware buy because of the commodity council's ability to decrease hardware costs, increase standardization and improve asset management. The service may also start its own council, said Vernon Bettencourt, Army deputy CIO.

Bulk hardware and enterprise software agreements represent the best IT deals for government because agencies get reduced prices due to their size and scope, said Phil Butler, who runs Phil Butler and Associates Ltd., an IT consulting firm in Annandale, Va.

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BUYING IN BULK

The Defense Departments Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) office will let all military agencies participate in the Air Forces next computer bulk buy. Here are the details:

Name: DOD ESI Hardware Pilot.

What: Desktop and notebook computers.

Where: Air Force Headquarters Standard Systems Group, Maxwell Air Force Base, Gunter Annex, Ala.

When: Fourth quarter of fiscal 2004.

Why: To lower the cost of buying computers.

Contact: Jim Clausen, DOD ESI Office, (703) 602-0980, james.clausen@osd.mil, or

Maj. Kurt Bergo, Air Force Information Technology Commodity Council, (334) 416-2312, kurt.bergo@gunter.af.mil.

Source: Defense Departments Enterprise Software Initiative office

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