Air Force seeks Microsoft pact

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Air Force officials are looking to consolidate licenses for Microsoft Corp. software held by each of its nine major commands into one enterprise agreement to save money and streamline the contract process, according to service officials.

Officials expect to purchase about 540,000 of the company's software licenses, which would cost between $500 million and $1 billion, after service and Microsoft officials resolve issues concerning some of the smaller applications included in the deal, said an official on the service's Information Technology Commodity Council.

The planned Air Force license for Microsoft products covers the Windows XP operating system, the Exchange server application, and Office word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software.

"There are some other [applications] that the Air Force and Microsoft [officials] are still discussing," said the IT Commodity Council official, who declined to be identified by name.

Council members study computer acquisition and maintenance trends and make recommendations to Air Force IT leaders.

The Air Force will use the Defense Department's Enterprise Software Initiative to purchase the Microsoft license. The program includes about 10 reseller vendors from whom military agencies can buy the enterprise licenses, according to the IT Commodity Council official.

A Microsoft official could not be reached for comment.

Enterprise software license agreements, especially for Microsoft products, represent the best deals because you pay once for the software, said Phil Butler, who runs his own government IT consulting firm Phil Butler and Associates Ltd. in Annandale, Va. "You don't keep paying for what you have."

Officials with the Air Force IT Commodity Council began discussing how to consolidate the service's buying power for Microsoft software last September.

The group recommended that the Air Force streamline its Microsoft contracts or plan to do so, said Lt. Col. Thomas Gaylord, deputy director of the council.

The Air Force typically issues IT contract procurement vehicles, and its agencies buy from those vehicles. So each of the service's nine major commands own Microsoft licenses, said John Gilligan, Air Force chief information officer.

The proposed Microsoft licensing deal follows the Air Force's 2-year-old initiative to manage IT assets enterprisewide.

The effort began with computer network and server consolidation, which today yields the Air Force $200 million a year in cost savings and has allowed the service to reallocate 1,000 employees from business IT work to warfighting IT jobs, Gilligan said.

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