Microsoft to tailor support for DOD

Montgomery, Ala. - Microsoft Corp. has proposed customizing a set of software support services for the Defense Department to ensure that DOD's systems stay up and running during a war, senior Microsoft officials confirmed last week.

In an interview last week with Federal Computer Week, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer, along with senior officials from the company's federal business office, said Microsoft officials have met with senior DOD officials to discuss the support services.

"Whenever there's a problem, and the government needs us to do something in any way, any shape or any form, we're going to do it," Ballmer said. "We need to tailor our support offerings and we're going to do that."

Microsoft provides a great deal of support for DOD's peacetime operations, including office automation products, e-mail Exchange packages and browser software. However, because Microsoft's technology also is widely deployed in a tactical role, "it is reasonable to assume that there will be a requirement to provide similar support to deployed forces,"

according to a source familiar with the discussions. "This will require [around-the-clock] operations, secure communications, [security]-cleared people and secure facilities."

The new support packages would provide Microsoft with the ability to "triage" its customers and place its civilian agency customers at the end of the priority list during wartime, the source said. Microsoft does not have enough staff to support DOD around-the-clock during a major conflict without affecting Microsoft's other customers, the source said. If DOD needs access to Microsoft source code for some reason, Microsoft is the only company that can provide that service, the source said.

"We are having preliminary meetings with [the office of the secretary of Defense] to start to look at some of the tailoring needs of the Defense Department," said Mary Ellen O'Brien, national accounts manager for Microsoft Federal Systems.

However, sources say that Microsoft has been given the "thousand-yard stare" by DOD officials, who appear "perplexed" at the notion of the software giant needing a plan to ensure that software support to DOD remains uninterrupted during a major crisis.

A spokeswoman for DOD said Marv Langston, DOD's chief information officer, was not available for comment on the issue but said meetings with Microsoft are scheduled for later this month.

Mike Berman, senior vice president of sales at Government Technology Services Inc., said that given the current trend of computer and software companies offering more and more in the way of services packages, the central question may be, "Has anybody ever done this successfully?"

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