Contract-a-year plan boosts PC competition
- By Bob Brewin
- May 19, 1996
ORLANDO, Fla.—The Army has decided to dramatically ratchet up the competition for its standard PC contracts and plans to award a new two-year contract every year, according to officials of the Army's Small Computer Program (SCP) office.
The new procurement policy will apply to all future desktop and portable PC procurements, starting with the PC-2 and Portable-2 acquisitions due to kick off next month, according to Tom Leahy, program manager for the SCP acquisition team (see related story, page 52.)
The SCP, a unit of the Army Information Systems Command, based in Fort Monmouth, N.J., also plans to make "all new starts dual awards," Leahy said, including the three-year Small Multiuser Computer-III contract, due for award in October 1998. The Army made a single award of SMC-I to Electronic Data Systems Corp. and SMC-II to Telos Corp.
The award-every-year strategy for desktop PCs and portables means "more product choices, better prices, better values [and] more vendor choices" for Army commands, Leahy told Army users and computer managers from throughout the world who had gathered for the semi-annual SCP Project Status Review conference here. The overlapping two-year contracts for PCs and portables means that users will have the ability to choose "between four vendors for PCs at all times [and] four vendors for portables at all times," Leahy said.
The Army's Information Systems Selection and Acquisition Agency, which manages the SCP buys, will do its best to push this process along, according to Kevin Carroll of ISSAA. The Alexandria, Va.-based agency plans to award contracts within four months of the request for proposals' release and, to keep up with the blistering pace of commercial improvements, plans to make contract modifications within 30 days of receiving a vendor proposal, he said.
Other steps ISSAA plans to speed the procurement process include the use of commercial test practices in evaluation, providing more timely and meaningful information in the debriefs for vendors and not requiring the submission of cost and pricing data, instead relying on price competition and catalog prices, Carroll said.
While some vendors viewed this new program dubiously, others welcomed it.
Theresa Garza, vice president of federal sales and marketing for Dell Computer Corp., said the new policy "will enhance the flexibility of the government. But at the same time, it becomes more complex for buyers because it requires more decision making."
Garza dismissed complaints that the accelerated procurement cycle would adversely impact vendors' costs.
"A repeat bid costs you less than the first one," Garza said. Dell intends to participate in the next round of Army PC buys, she added.
The Army has decided to ride the commercial technology wave in the upcoming PC-2 and Portable-2 buys, according to the briefing Leahy gave here. The SCP wants vendors to offer two bundled systems on PC-2, plus three sizes of monitors: 15, 17 and 21 inches.
On the Portable-2 buy, the Army wants to enhance users' choices by asking bidders to offer two bundled notebook computer systems with active-matrix screens and docking stations, Leahy said.
In software, the Army wants to drive Portable-2 beyond the operating system/office automation packages found on Portable-1.
Leahy said the Army wants vendors to offer World Wide Web browsers, computer-aided design and telephony packages as well.
The Army hopes that the result of these new acquisitions and the shortened acquisition cycle will benefit users, Leahy said, because it means "the latest technology to you, faster."