GATEC: A view from the front line

Deputy Chief Operational and Central Support Contracting Wright-Patterson Air Force BaseFIRST INITIAL You raised good questions and points in your editorial "What's the problem with GATEC?" [FCW July 29]. I was the deputy to the commander at the Wright-Patterson Contracting Center when we with Law-rence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) doing the engineering and systems development created GATEC. It was thoughtfully planned had screens designed by the buyers who would be using them operated on a Sun SPARCstation with no access from the outside to the Air Force Standard System was programmed in current programming languages using Windows and worked great.

What then is the problem with GATEC? The Defense Department paid LLNL to develop it. The pilot site cut the time required to buy significantly. Actions that had never been competed before were competed and documented millions were saved through that competition. Access to information by small businesses was enhanced tremendously and buyers were doing a job in a more efficient manner with a tool that everyone recognized to be superior to anything known.

But DOD did not deploy it. For the reasoning behind that you would have to talk to Colleen Preston and/or Emmett Paige Jr. et al. I heard one high-ranking Air Force official say that the decision was "the worst I've seen in my whole AF career - made for all the wrong reasons."

The Air Force decision not to adopt GATEC means we now use an electronic data interchange capability that is hosted on the Wang minicomputer that also hosts the basic Procurement System which is old overworked and programmed in Wang Cobol.

The official reason I heard was that a technical review done by DOD found GATEC lacking - a technical review that was so flawed it was never published in final but only draft form because someone would have had to correct all the misinformation and inaccuracies contained in it to go final.

Or could there have been some other reason?

I don't know what all the imagined "problems" are but I can tell you they're not performance-related and you can ask any GATEC buyer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base about that.

The time that has been wasted since we did the first electronic X.12-compliant award back in October 1992 should have been used to make further advances that we had planned but even though you pet a dog and tell it how good it is if you starve it it will still die.

None of this means that GATEC dies for those agencies that are objective and wise enough to use it. I understand LLNL has licensed the software and a contract could be made with someone to run the "hub." Who knows? GATEC would still be a good deal compared to a lot of the problems the Air Force has created internally while Wright-Patterson and the rest of the government try to get where GATEC has already been.Lou Cosbycosbyle@erinet.com

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