Navy awards BPAs for shipboard tech

The Navy last week put into place a key component of its Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) initiative with the award of four blanket purchase agreements for building shipboard technology solutions.

The Navy awarded BPAs to Computer Sciences Corp. Lockheed Martin Corp. Litton/PRC Inc. and Science Applications International Corp. based on integration services the vendors offer on the General Services Administration schedule. The BPAs have no ceiling but the total value of the program is estimated to be worth around $200 million.

IT-21 is a fast-track Navy initiative to create a seamless computing environment between tactical and support systems throughout the Navy by refurbishing the technical infrastructure aboard ships at sea and those ashore with commercial technology.

Under the Tactical Advanced Computer-Enterprise Solutions program the four systems integrators will help put much of that technology into place aboard the ships while other programs will focus on facilities on shore. Task orders may cover a range of services from installing high-speed communications systems or porting existing information systems to IT-21 computing platforms to developing customized IT solutions.

The BPA approach fits well with IT-21 because these vehicles more than standard contracts make it easy for the Navy to keep the contract offerings up-to-date and to get quick turnaround on task orders said David Capizzi director of the Supply Corps in the contracting directorate of the Naval Information Systems Management Center.

"I think it is a good concept because it takes into consideration the needs of the operational forces to have the latest [computing and] communications capabilities " Capizzi said. Awarding BPAs "allows us to tailor the GSA schedule line items to the Navy standards."

Initially Enterprise Solutions is open to a limited number of aircraft carrier battle groups and the Navy's amphibious readiness group. However according to NISMC the scope might be expanded if the program proves to be successful.

To some extent activity might be limited in the near future anyway Navy and vendor sources said as the Navy sorts out some of the specifics of the IT-21 computing architecture. But the Navy definitely plans to migrate its shipboard systems to the new networking and computing infrastructure and it needs contractor support to make that happen.

Under the Enterprise Solutions program vendors will respond to a statement of work from a Navy customer by proposing a technical solution based on products and services available on each vendor's GSA schedule contract. The program is not intended to cover large systems development efforts but primarily integration jobs involving commercial hardware and software the Navy said.

The selected vendors bring to the program extensive work in Navy shipboard support. PRC for example is the prime contractor under the Navy's Supermini II program which has a similar focus on building technical solutions using commercial technology.

"We have a very strong background of providing nontactical systems through Supermini and other programs " as well as a presence in certain tactical areas said Greg Streeter senior account manager for Navy systems at PRC.

SAIC also has been working in this environment for many years including a major role in the TAC-4 program as a subcontractor to Hewlett-Packard Co. said Ron Chuleen a senior vice president at SAIC. "That knowledge plays into [Enterprise Solutions] well " Chuleen said.

CSC has been doing shipboard installations of command and control systems since the 1960s said Dave Leslie CSC's interim program manager.

The experience of these vendors and their knowledge of commercial technology will be an important element of the IT-21 initiative Capizzi said. As IT-21 rolls out "We are looking to put more dependence on the contractors to keep us up to speed" on available commercial technology he said.

The Navy reportedly considered BPA proposals from six vendors before selecting the four. Industry sources said Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Wang/I-NET were the two passed over. Neither vendor could be reached for comment.

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