Cecom site moving to all-Internet acquisition system

The Army's Communication-Electronics Command (Cecom) Acquisition Center - which researches develops and acquires warfighting systems - has launched a World Wide Web-based electronic interchange that is designed to eventually allow its entire procurement process to be completed via the Internet.

Point your browser to acbop.monmouth.army.mil to take a peek at the first operational phase of the project which allows contractors to view solicitations online and submit solicitations electronically. Interested users who can come to the Cecom business opportunities page equipped only with an Internet connection and a browser can sift through solicitations using various search methods such as the contract's number title status or the date it was posted. This new system replaces Cecom's bulletin board system.

Cecom purchases $4.5 billion worth of information technology and related electronic equipment each year and supports offices in Monmouth N.J. Fort Huachuca Ariz. and Washington D.C. The new site which is well-organized and extremely easy to navigate is part of a Cecom policy announced this year to re-engineer the command's acquisition process by relying more on electronic communications. The policy requires vendors to submit all procurement information online which represents one of the few times a federal agency has considered requiring vendors to communicate via e-mail rather than simply extending that as an option [FCW July 7].

The site allows users to search by specific contracting officer Commerce Business Daily category or the type of action a solicitation requires. Those who only want to read solicitations can enter the word "guest" for the password and the log-in name to peruse the documents. To submit proposals in response to these requirements contractors use a secured log-in name and password. The system uses Secure Socket Layer which is a security enhancement to Web protocol and encryption to secure these transactions.

Web designers met with industry officials for feedback throughout the design of the new system which was completed after only six weeks and a $70 000 investment said Matthew Meinert the project leader at Cecom. The group was able to launch the project with a minimal investment of money and manpower because the Army Materiel Command allowed the project designers to use commercial off-the-shelf software instead of requiring the construction of a proprietary system Meinert said. The system is constructed with Netscape Communications Corp.'s browser software it also uses Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes as a server.

The system is designed to mold the solicitation process into a more efficient operation for contractors and government contracting officers Meinert said. For example an industry representative can perform an online search of Cecom solicitations for a specific product without reading daily CBD notices. When users find interesting solicitations they can read them on the Internet without having to download cumbersome files he said.

Also contracting officers can search online for existing requirements that match their needs. Theoretically this option could reduce the number of solicitations and create a more streamlined acquisition process Meinert said.

Eventually Cecom officials plan to phase in additional capabilities to the system that will allow not only the exchange of various solicitation documents between government and industry but also will facilitate a complete electronic process including online viewing of proposals by Cecom personnel through the electronic signature of contract awards.

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