State preps draft RFP for $100M buy

The State Department this month will release a draft request for proposals (DRFP) for its $100 million-plus State Information Infrastructure-PC Local-Area Network (SII-PC LAN) procurement, an office automation contract that will standardize office hardware and software in department offices worldwide.

This is the first departmentwide State procurement in 17 years that has called for standardized office automation technology.

"SII-PC LAN will provide uniform office technology so that a foreign service officer who moves from Paris to Washington, D.C., would enjoy the same environment within the office as far as technology goes," said Hal Niebel, director, Office of Major FIP Acquisitions at State. "It's the first step towards a uniform office environment and a more modern messaging program."

The contract will provide the infrastructure for the State Messaging System, which will parallel the Defense Department's Defense Message System for secure electronic messaging. SII-PC LAN is a prerequisite for getting to SMS, Niebel said.

SII-PC LAN will provide commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software; personal workstations; computing equipment, such as printers; and LANs, including the hubs, routers, servers and wide-area networking interfaces to go along with them.

The contract will serve more than 200 embassies, consulates and missions. These offices now have a mix of different systems and equipment.

"Now there is [essentially] no enterprisewide software licensing, and that makes standardization nearly impossible," Niebel said.

The typical State office "doesn't have integrated hardware and software products, and therein lies the problem," he added.

State plans to make an award next year, but the pace at which the installation will take place depends on the department's budget, Niebel said.

"Administrative support services have traditionally been underfunded, which is understandable because reporting and analysis are the lifeblood of the department," he said. "However, updating our office technologies is a priority with senior officials in the department, so we're optimistic the funds will be available."

Equipment bought off SII-PC LAN will need to work with products already in the field, although the older technology will eventually be phased out. There is a large installed base of Wang Laboratories Inc. equipment "that won't go away for a long time," Niebel said.

The department plans to make the hardware portion of the contract open to other foreign affairs agencies.

The SII-PC LAN contract is significant because it is the "first big step in the [State Department's] move away from older architecture into a distributed multivendor environment," said Alan Lawrence, vice president of business development at Government Technology Services Inc., which is anxiously awaiting the DRFP.

For vendors the challenge will be to deliver products everywhere the State Department is.

"A lot of people could underestimate what it takes to get products all over the world," Lawrence said, adding that he hopes there is selection criteria in the DRFP that recognizes the need for that capability.

He said he thinks there would be a sense of urgency on the part of State to replace older technology as soon as possible. If not, the department's mission "could be hampered" by its information technology architecture, he said.

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