SSG takes over Air Force's struggling IC4I contract

The nearly billion-dollar program established to provide the intelligence and military command and control communities with information technology products and services last month pulled up stakes in a last-ditch effort to breathe life into the struggling contract.

The Integration for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (IC4I) contract officially moved June 15 from the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., to the Air Force's Standard Systems Group (SSG), Montgomery, Ala., after more than two years of lackluster sales and problems administering the program.

A small staff managed the contract at Hanscom, and administrators "were always overwhelmed," said Michael Fox, director of advanced programs for Systems Research and Applications Corp. (SRA), one of three vendors awarded contracts under the program. Although the contract "hasn't lived up to its billing, the folks down [at SSG] really understand how to make a program like this successful," Fox said.

IC4I was awarded in 1996 to BTG Inc., SRA and Cordant Inc. (Cordant was subsequently bought out by Tracor Inc. and is now known as Marconi North America Inc. after its recent acquisition by General Electric Co.) Each vendor received a contract ceiling of $929 million.

Inez Butler, the new IC4I program manager at SSG, said the contract will not change from its original intent, but the new management team members will try to leverage their experience working on other contracts, such as the Air Force's Unified Local-Area Network Architecture II and Desktop V, and apply that corporate knowledge and management experience to IC4I. "We've learned lessons from other contracts that we feel we can apply to IC4I," Butler said.

Part of SSG's plan includes the development of an IC4I World Wide Web site that will help establish online ordering processes. Butler said SSG's IC4I Web site will be completed over the next few weeks, and dedicated IC4I vendor sites also will be up and running in two to six weeks.

SSG plans to incorporate more automated processes into the contract than has been the case in the past, Butler said. "It will be more streamlined because we intend to automate as many of the processes as possible."

Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., said he recalls a time when procedural impediments hampered the contract's performance. He said the establishment of online buying processes seems like a natural progression because the Defense Department has mandated services and agencies to move in that direction. The new IC4I management and administration team will be made up of 16 people, including contracting, program management, security and technical development personnel, Butler said. The team has also established a new Information Technology Product Area Directorate (PAD), which will work to bring more synergy between the contract and SSG's management goals.

Lt. Col. Glenn Taylor, who will head up the new PAD for IC4I, said the new organ-ization will try to make the contract more user-friendly. "There's a very astute buyer out there," and we need to do everything we can to make the buying process easier for them, he said.

Cal Shintani, group vice president in charge of IC4I and other DOD programs for BTG, said his company is pleased about the move, adding that SSG's plans to streamline the contract's purchasing procedures will be "a tremendous benefit to our collective customers." Shintani also said preliminary discussions with BTG's government customers indicate that the IC4I end-user community also expects the contract to take off.

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