DISA plans FedCenter expansion

FedCenter the commercial electronic mall and acquisition site on the World Wide Web that is open to government agencies will get a $15 million facelift that should make it one of the most used electronic commerce Internet sites according to its developers.

Digital Commerce Corp. which launched FedCenter about two years ago signed a five-year cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Defense Information Systems Agency this month to beef up the services it will offer on the site. In addition to the agreement Digital Commerce said it will invest about $15 million in the site during the next year.

The two entities will work to build FedCenter into one of the largest Internet EC sites in the world with FedCenter processing more than 1.2 million transactions a day according to Richard Graveley executive vice president of Digital Commerce. Transactions will include everything from placing and paying for orders to downloading agencies' requests for comments. State and local government agencies also will be able to use FedCenter.

"FedCenter will become a cradle-to-grave electronic commerce solution for federal procurement " Graveley said.

DISA officials were unavailable for comment.

As part of the CRADA DISA will provide Digital Commerce with hardware software telecommunications equipment and high-speed connectivity to the Internet and to DISA's Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router Network which is the Pentagon's graphics-heavy intranet.

In addition the two entities will develop new software modules for FedCenter such as links to the Central Contractor's Registration (CCR) database which stores information on companies that do business with the federal government links to product inventory maintained by vendors and the ability to track products make travel reservations participate in chat rooms and access online bulletin boards. Vendors also will have a link to banks and credit facilities so that loan requests which are submitted by companies when agencies have not yet started payment on a contract are processed faster.

Graveley said DISA is a good partner because the Defense Department purchases more goods and services than any other agency and as a result it is important to get buy-in from the department on what applications are essential to conduct business electronically. For example FedCenter will integrate the ability to use various electronic data interchange formats - a technology used heavily in DOD to conduct business.

"The motivation behind the CRADA was to set the stage for implementing the current features of FedCenter while providing a forum to bring in the best technology and best strategic partners to implement full-scale electronic commerce " Graveley said.

Carmine Dellasala vice president of CyberCenter Inc. a channel sales partner for Digital Commerce said he expects hundreds of corporations to post additional products and services in FedCenter's electronic mall in the near future as a result of the CRADA.

Although there are other electronic malls and acquisition sites on the Internet for government agencies to use when they want to check prices or place orders such as the General Services Administration's GSA Advantage and Unisys Corp.'s recently launched Select IT Graveley said FedCenter is agency- and vendor-independent.

But the competition will generate better services for agencies in the long run said Tony Trenkle co-chairman of the Electronic Commerce Acquisition Program Management Office at GSA.

"I don't see it as a wasteful trend as much as an innovative trend " he said. "I think if we're pushing innovation it's good. But sooner or later there will be a limited number of catalogs or malls...and agencies will have the final say in what malls survive and what malls don't."

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