Air Force halts PC sked orders

The Air Force last week nixed plans by users to buy Desktop V "killer" PC packages that vendors planned to offer on the General Services Administration schedule while protests on the mega-deal are being resolved.

In a memo dated May 31, the service directed all major commands "not to procure off [General Services Administration] Class 70 ADPE (B&C) schedules for a 60-day period from the date of this memorandum, unless the installation commander determines there is a mission-critical requirement."

The memo, signed by Lt. Gen. John Fairfield, deputy chief of staff for communications and information, and Darleen Druyun, principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and management, said that "using something other than the DT V contract causes the Air Force to lose many of the advantages of the infrastructure we have worked so hard to build and maintain."

The memo added, "To indiscriminately use these schedule contracts would jeopardize the extensive foundation it has taken years to develop."

Holders of GSA schedules said the memo will cut off Air Force buyers from some good deals. Rocky Mountain, marketing manager for Dell Computer Corp.'s federal group, said his company "is in a position now to offer the Air Force better deals than they could get from DT V."

The price of commodity components has come tumbling down, he explained. "In January, on our schedule, we were selling an upgrade from 16M to 32M of RAM for $607.... Last Monday we cut the price to $99." Mountain said he expects similar price drops for storage devices, such as hard drives.

Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., said the memo did leave one loophole for Air Force buyers who do not want to wait until August to commit funds: It did not prohibit Air Force commands from using Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) vehicles, such as the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store.

Air Force users who make small purchases may opt out of using GWAC vehicles, according to Jack Littley, vice president of corporate development at BTG Inc. GWAC purchases require more work than schedule buys as well as a transfer of funds. "If it's a big enough buy, it's all worth it," Littley said, "but if it's a little buy, I'm not sure how much people will [bother] to deal with [GWACs]."

Jan Morgan, a research analyst with IDC Government Market Services, said the freeze on schedule orders could end up hurting the Desktop V contractors. "If they stop up the channels so [customers] are forced to buy off that contract...I don't know how the vendors can handle the initial volume," she said. "That is not a good situation to be putting the vendors in."

The Air Force awarded the $1 billion Desktop V contracts for up to 300,000 desktop and portable PCs to Hughes Data Systems and Zenith Data Systems May 3. Sysorex Information Systems Inc. protested the award to GSA's Board of Contract Appeals May 13, followed shortly thereafter by a protest from Government Technology Services Inc. GSBCA has up to 60 days to resolve the protest, meaning a decision could come as late as July 17.

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