DISA net contracts kept in the shadows

Vendors are busy jostling for position on the Defense Department's $886 million Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) program.

The program is one of the most watched DOD information technology programs and a critical piece of the agency's concept of network-centric operations.

About 140 companies attended the GIG-BE program bidders conference last October. One industry official who participated in the daylong event said, "Every company in the beaten-down telecommunications sector attended to see if they could play in this game."

No more than nine vendors can win contracts in the $500 million GIG-BE fiber portion, which the Defense Information Systems Agency will award soon. DISA will follow up the fiber deal with the $386 million GIG-BE equipment contracts awards in December.

GIG-BE is DOD's bandwidth World Series — an $886 million initiative to build a fast, secure, ubiquitous optical network based on IP. It will connect 100 sites worldwide so warfighters and analysts can post and access intelligence and data more quickly.

"There's some politics in awarding the contracts before the end of the year because that's when companies file profit and loss statements," an industry official said. His company's GIG-BE equipment proposal was rejected.

As of Sept. 17, DISA had not awarded GIG-BE fiber or equipment contracts, according to an agency spokeswoman.

DISA officials, however, have started informing companies that they are no longer under consideration for fiber and equipment contracts, said John Stenbit, DOD chief information officer, in an interview at the Air Force Information Technology Conference held Aug. 25 to 28 in Montgomery, Ala.

DISA still will not publicly release the name of GIG-BE fiber contract awardees, "because it would draw attention to the specific vendors and the specific locations they are conducting work," according to the DISA spokeswoman.

GIG-BE fiber contract negotiations took three courses, the industry official said. DOD officials asked to lease companies' fiber first for 25 years and then for 10 years, which officials favored, or finally to buy it, which industry officials preferred so that they could recoup their huge losses when bandwidth reached surplus amounts, the official said.

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Widening the pipes

Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion equipment consists of four categories. They are:

Long-haul optics: Cable that transmits light signals over great distances.

Optical crossconnecting: Switches that join routers.

Multiservice provisioning platforms: Devices that turn off switches and regulate voice, video and data traffic.

Routers: Core and edge hardware that sends and receives information.

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