TRW launches electronic ordering on ULANA II

TRW Inc. had to wait two and a half years to finally turn on its Air Force $678 million networking infrastructure contract last month and concedes it has lost some advantage to its competitor Electronic Data Systems Corp.

But the firm also believes it has a technology edge over EDS on the Unified Local-Area Network Architecture II (ULANA II) contract because it will offer Defense Department buyers one-stop shopping and ordering through a World Wide Web page.

The Air Force awarded dual ULANA II contracts to EDS and TRW Inc. in 1994 with TRW's award tied up in a protest by Unisys Corp. The service lifted its suspension of TRW's pact in January. Jim Gallagher the TRW ULANA II program manger said this long delay meant "all our products were out-of-date so we had to bring that list up to date."

Electronic-Mall Collaboration

The Air Force Standard Systems Group (SSG) Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex Ala. decided to use the time TRW spent refining its shopping list to also work with the company to set up an electronic mall for the ULANA II product line (www.ulana2.com). "That's they only way TRW is going to do business " said William Barnes the ULANA II program manger at SSG. "Customers will be able to browse the products fill [an electronic] `shopping cart ' and the program management office [at SSG] will then validate the orders."

Gallagher said he believes that even though "EDS has two years of experience under its belt " the electronic ordering process will give TRW an initial advantage as it vies with EDS for orders during the important fourth-fiscal-quarter buying season. SSG's Barnes said that distinction will last only until Sept. 1 when EDS will start handling Air Force ULANA II orders online with electronic ordering available to Army Navy and civilian customers by Oct. 1.

Barnes said SSG decided to evolve electronic ordering on the EDS contract slowly this summer because that company already had orders in the pipeline and SSG did not want to interrupt the flow during the peak buying season.

Gary Miller the EDS ULANA II program manager said that his company's ULANA II business on a year-to-date basis "is running about 60 percent ahead of last year." He said competition from TRW will create "a different world" for the contract but he added that he believes "there is plenty of room for both of us."

EDS and TRW offer a variety of networking services and products on their contracts ranging from site surveys for LAN installation to desktop PCs. Both integrators tap many of the same firms such as Cabletron Systems Inc. Cisco Systems Inc. and Fore Systems Inc.

Mack Griffin SSG's small-computer program manager said TRW "will provide us with competition [and] alternate sources of supply...as well as another source for services."

Griffin estimated that customers have ordered about $182 million dollars worth of goods and services from ULANA II with the Army a heavy user of the contract for the network nuts and bolts for its basenetwork-upgrade program the Common User Information Transport System. Griffin said a similar Air Force project the Combat Information Transport System has been and should continue to be an equally heavy user of the ULANA II contracts.

"For a while the Army was running ahead of the Air Force" in terms of ULANA II orders "but the Army and Air Force are now running neck and neck " Griffin said.

Besides the Army and the Air Force base infrastructure-upgrade programs SSG's Barnes also expects base information security programs to tap ULANA II for products and services in the next fiscal year. The House Appropriations Committee added $48 million to the Air Force 1998 budget earmarked solely for "security enhancements to Air Force base information systems."

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