Boeing captures $2B DISN contract

The Defense Information Systems Agency last week awarded Boeing Information Services Inc. a $2 billion services contract to support the deployment of the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN), a worldwide telecommunications backbone for the Defense Information Infrastructure.

Under the DISN Support Services-Global (DSSG) pact - the first of four DISN contracts - Boeing will provide life-cycle management as DOD rolls out and integrates the three DISN components: transmission, bandwidth management and video services.

DSSG is a time-and-materials indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, with one base year and four option years.

Although only half the size of the anticipated $5 billion transmission services contract, DSSG plays a more pivotal role, according to Peter G. Smingler, DISA's contracting officer for DISN.

DISA wanted "a world-class contractor that truly understood the mission of DISA and DOD in terms of its telecommunications requirements and could help ensure support providing telecommunications from the White House to the fox hole," Smingler said. "That is what DISN has been all about from Day One."

For Boeing, DSSG represents another opportunity to prove its capabilities as a major systems integrators. In recent years, the vendor has been embroiled in the troubled Reserve Component Automation System program at the National Guard and has not had many major wins, industry observers said.

"If there was a good, solid, past-performance evaluation, it certainly should overcome any residual concerns about doing business with the company," said Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources, a Vienna, Va., market research firm.

Boeing brings extensive experience in telecommunications. The company was deeply involved with AT&T in developing its FTS 2000 proposal, providing support from before the solicitation through the first day of service.

Boeing's Information Services group also helped develop the parent company's private network, which provides service to more than 50,000 users in the Seattle, Wash., area.

Boeing's team includes Science Applications International Corp., BBN, N.E.T. Federal, SETA Corp., Innovative Logistics Techniques, Modern Technologies Corp. and Pulse Technologies Inc.

Unsuccessful bidders on the DSSG program include GTE, Government Systems Inc. and Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems Division, all of which declined comment last week.

DISA designed DSSG to cover a broad range of task orders. "It really runs the gamut of life-cycle program management support, from esoteric engineering through mundane operations and just about everything in between," Smingler said. "If [the work] has the name DISN attached to it, we can probably handle it."

The DSSG contractor will not provide equipment, such as network switches. Instead, DISA will purchase products off existing contracts or, if necessary, run a separate procurement. On the other hand, Boeing will help develop requirements and do everything short of procurement, including engineering, site surveys and installation, Smingler said.

The DSSG contractor will support not only DISA but also the Office of the Secretary of Defense and other DOD agencies, Smingler said.

Keeping DISA on Top of Telecom

For Boeing, one of the major tasks will be helping DISA stay on top of its evolving telecommunications system, said M.U. Ayres, Boeing's DSSG program manager.

Over the next several years, the three other DISN contracts "will be coming on-line, and there will be a cutover from the present network and services," Ayres said. "The challenge is always managing change in an environment like that, minimizing risks [and keeping] reduced costs."

This first DISN award comes after more than half a year of discussion among DISA, industry and Congress about the DISN acquisition strategy.

Late last year, AT&T unsuccessfully protested DISA's plan to procure DISN through four separate but linked bids rather than one integrated bid. Within the last two weeks, DISA also has responded to related queries from Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Barring any further delays, the contract for bandwidth management, or switched services - worth about $400 million - is expected in August, with transmission services in late fall, DISA said.

The award of this first contract "drives a real stake in the ground for DOD and the rest of the government," Smingler said. "DISN is real."

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