Army seeks companies with global reach

Service tries new contracting approach to advance IT modernization

The Army wants to award contracts to companies that can adapt to unique and diverse environments and modernize the service's information technology infrastructure. Those requirements appear in the Army's solicitation for the $4 billion Infrastructure Modernization (IMOD) program.

According to the new solicitation, the service plans to award eight contracts, including two to small businesses, in April 2006.

IMOD will be one of the Army's largest IT contracts and will include provisions for installing and upgrading voice, video and data networks at major service locations worldwide.

IMOD is also significant because it will enable the Army to offer more flexible contract options and use performance-based contracting.

For example, the service will require companies that submit proposals to show how their IT infrastructure solutions can be deployed at three specific Army sites.

Answers to those so-called active tasks will help companies win one of the contracts, and the best ones will win the first task orders, said Col. Scot Miller, project manager in the Office of the Project Manager for Defense Communications and Army Switched Systems. The office is part of the Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems.

"We're interested in companies that prove they have global reach in unique and diverse environments," Miller said.

The value of the IMOD acquisition is that the Army took a traditional sample-tasks procurement technique that did not have much value and turned it into realistic active tasks, said Chip Mather, a 20-year government contracting official who is now a partner at the IT and procurement consulting firm Acquisition Solutions.

Under sample-tasks procurements, the Army provides companies that submit proposals with requirements for hypothetical bases and situations. By contrast, active tasks reflect real needs at actual bases.

The latter approach allows the Army and bidders to better understand IMOD's requirements, Mather said.

The vendors that best understand those requirements will submit the best proposals and win the contracts. "I love a competition of ideas," he said.

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at the marketing and consulting company Federal Sources Inc., agreed with Mather.

"It's a great way for evaluators to see if offerors are willing to think about how to do the job better," he said.

IMOD is the contract vehicle for the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program, a multibillion-dollar initiative. That program covers the installation and upgrade of outdoor cable, telephone switches, network hardware and software, and fiber-optic cables at major Army locations worldwide.

Completion of that information infrastructure will allow combat soldiers to more easily connect to systems at their home bases. It will also allow combat support employees, including logisticians, to work from the United States instead of overseas.

IMOD replaces the Army's Digital Switched Systems Modernization Program, a 10-year, firm-fixed-price contract that expires in June 2007. That contract had 19 suppliers including Harris, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. The new contract will have several advantages over the previous one, said Rita Cashour, who leads the service's IMOD Integrated Product Team.

In addition to introducing performance-based contracting, IMOD will give the Army flexibility in using other contract types such as firm fixed price, time and materials, and cost reimbursement.


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Army to put vendors through a realistic test

The Army's Infrastructure Modernization solicitation will require companies to submit their best ideas on how to update the information technology infrastructure at three sites.

The submissions for those "active tasks" will help vendors compete for the modernization program's contracts and initial task orders.

The three sites are:

  • Fort Riley, Kan., for IT engineering and implementation.
  • Sagami, Japan, for IT implementation.
  • Sheridan Barracks and Artillery Kaserne, Germany, for IT implementation.

Source: Army

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