Lawmakers urge DOD to back integrated bid

The Senate Governmental Affairs and Armed Services committees have asked the Pentagon to explain why it will not accept a single integrated bid for its multibillion-dollar Defense Information Systems Network (DISN), a position long advocated by AT&T.

The Defense Information Systems Agency has repeatedly said that its strategy of breaking DISN up into separate procurements for integration services, transmission and network management is the most cost-effective approach.

'Merit to Accepting an Integrated Bid'

In a letter to Secretary of Defense William Perry, Governmental Affairs members Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said they believed "there is merit to accepting an integrated bid that offers cost and quality enhancements, and we would encourage the department to be open to accepting such a bid."

Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, echoed these comments in his letter to Perry. Thurmond said competition may demonstrate that an "integrated bid would provide the best result. Accordingly, I urge you to accept an integrated bid and explore all options to acquire communication services at the most reasonable cost." He said that while "it is possible" separate contracts would lead to lower costs and enhanced flexibility, "I cannot understand why the department would come to such a conclusion prior to a competition taking place."

The Pentagon has not yet replied to either letter. But FCW has learned that DISA director Lt. Gen. Al Edmonds plans to brief Stevens this week.

The Senate letters follow a similar letter from members of the House. Competing vendors and industry analysts see the Glenn/Stevens letter as part of a larger campaign by AT&T - which has served as the primary integrated supplier of long-haul communications in the United States for more than a decade through its Defense Commercial Telecommunications (DCTN) contract - to force top Pentagon management and DISA to restructure the DISN procurement.

In a statement, AT&T said, "We are happy to see that Congress is interested in DOD's procuring the most cost-effective network possible, and they feel an integrated bid would be a cost-effective alternative. AT&T's position has been that an integrated bid alternative would be in the best interests of DOD, the warfighter and the American taxpayer."

Warren Suss, a Pennsylvania-based communications analyst specializing in the federal market, said that if DISA did restructure the DISN procurement as requested at this late date, it would benefit AT&T at the expense of the Pentagon. "This would force a total revision of the technical requirements, which would lead to a delay in the DISN awards. That would result in another extension of the DCTN contract, which cost the Pentagon hundreds of millions of dollars."

Diana Gowen, director of DOD sales and markets for MCI Government Markets, said AT&T's lobbying campaign shows "real desperation.... It's obvious they want to delay DISN."

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