Guerra: Drop the protest

With the nation at war, companies' AKO protestors are wasting time

I can't find the words to express how disappointed I am that our community can't put selfish, parochial financial interests behind it over the pending Army Knowledge Online (AKO) protest. As Army Maj. Gen. Denny Moran reminded us at a recent AFCEA International Army information technology conference, we are a nation at war, and our primary obligation is to

support our warfighters.

The government has been paying tens of millions of dollars for what was essentially secure Internet and e-mail access under the AKO Web portal. That made a great deal of sense since AKO began as a shoestring effort to figure out what it meant to our nation's defense.

It also seemed appropriate because warfighters could use it to stay in communications with their families at home. The resulting improved morale may be worth the cost of the Web portal.

As a result of the hard work of some talented people, we now understand how much AKO can contribute to the Army's effectiveness, and it's time to get moving forward in that context.

We are now ready to move toward that network-centric, knowledge-based force the visionaries of AKO described in the AKO Enterprise Services procurement.

So why am I disappointed? Isn't the integrity of the acquisition process of paramount importance? Sure it is.

If that were what is at stake here and not the efficiency of our Army, I would support an inquiry. But the integrity of the process is not at all threatened.

From what we have heard, the protests are a matter of interpretation and evaluation. One company thinks that is is better equipped to evaluate what the Army's needs than the Army is to evaluate itself. That's an interesting approach.

Having handled many bids myself, I agree that every time my company lost, the government must have made a mistake. On the other hand, when we won, the government clearly understood that my company was best equipped to meet its needs.

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.

The main difference between AKO and other procurements is urgency. We are at war today. Kids are fighting and dying. AKO has the potential to improve our warfighting efficiency and save lives now. That is what is of paramount importance about moving AKO forward, and why these protests need to go away.

There is just too much at stake here to waste any more time.

By the way, there's no law against withdrawing a protest.

Guerra is a partner at the government technology consulting company Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates. He can be reached at rguerra@govspecialists.com.

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