Army portal updates on hold

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The Army must wait until November to start updating the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) Web portal because of contract protests filed by two companies.

In July, CherryRoad Technologies and EDS filed protests of the interpretation and best value, respectively, of the Army's award of the $152.1 million AKO Enterprise Services contract to Lockheed Martin, said military and industry officials familiar with the protest.

The Government Accountability Office will issue a decision on the protests in late October.

The Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS), the Army Contracting Agency and the Army's Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Commercial Contracting Center oversaw the AKO Enterprise Services procurement.

They sought a contractor that would manage AKO's growth and update the portal as new technologies emerge. It now has 1.7 million subscribers, up from 61,000 four years ago.

Bob Guerra, a partner at the IT consulting firm Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates who is familiar with Army procurements, said the protests will delay plans to move AKO from a secure intranet for e-mail and collaboration to a portal for a network-centric and knowledge-based force. "From what we have heard and read, the protests are a matter of interpretation and evaluation," he said.

"One company thinks that they are better equipped to evaluate what the Army's needs are than the Army is to evaluate their own needs," he said. "The other protest on reason and belief is a matter of interpretation at best and certainly not a legitimate reason to delay a program that has so much promise in improving our Army's efficiency."

CherryRoad would not comment in detail, but spokeswoman Debbie Yobs said, "We're confident of our position."

EDS argues that the Army did not pick the best proposal. "We believe the selected proposal did not reflect best value to the Army and was not chosen in a manner consistent with the procurement process," EDS spokesman Kevin Clarke said. "The fact that the incumbent contractor has already filed a protest reinforces EDS' concern over the award."

CherryRoad filed its protest under a protective order, which means the Army cannot discuss it.

After learning of the CherryRoad protest, however, Army Col. Tom Hogan, deputy program executive officer of PEO-EIS, described it as baseless. "We believe the protest is without merit and that the government will prevail," he said.

Lockheed Martin does not comment on protests, company spokesman Matt Kramer said. "We're honored to have been chosen by the Army for the contract," Kramer said. "We stand ready to support our Army customer."

Under the one-year performance-based contract, which includes six option years, Lockheed Martin and its partners will provide AKO systems operations and maintenance, network communications, hardware and software integration, and full-time help-desk support for the portal's classified and unclassified networks.

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