Pausing to reflect on Desktop V

The long-awaited award of the Air Force's Desktop V contract has occurred, as has the inevitable protest halting the entire process, so once again, Air Force users find themselves moving into the summer buying season without their primary PC IDIQ contract.

Perhaps because the Desktop series is so highly visible it draws lightning—and protests.

Some key elements are different now from when Desktop IV was on hold. Other services have PC contracts in place that can be used, and the vendor community learned from its Desktop IV experience that there is good business to be done while the decision is pending.

So this buying season, a number of firms are putting together special PC configurations designed in price and performance to substitute for Desktop V machines. Other companies are emphasizing that competitively priced equipment is already available on the GSA schedule, which one vendor called "Uncle Sam's largest IDIQ contract."

With alternative sources of product, the immediate hardship for Air Force users will be reduced. But the whole episode begs the question of whether these mega-IDIQ contracts are still the best way to provide computers to the government. When much is at stake, no company can afford to lose. It becomes a better tactic to delay.

Even when GSBCA protests become extinct, it might still behoove the DOD acquisition apparat to evaluate whether IDIQs still justify the cost to run them.

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