FACNET alternative adds Defense users

Ecweb.net, an Internet-based electronic commerce service, recently stepped up its presence in the federal market with the addition of two Defense Department customers.

The World Wide Web site, www.ecweb.net, was created by EC Web Technologies Inc. and links government agencies and vendors by electronically centralizing procurement solicitations, quotes and awards.

EC Web rolled out the site late last year as an alternative to the Federal Acquisition Computer Network. FACNET was a mandated service for agencies doing business electronically until Congress rolled back the requirement in the 1998 Defense authorization bill.

After picking up a number of civilian agencies over the past nine months, ecweb.net recently expanded to handle more than 40,000 transactions for the Defense Logistics Agency. The DLA transactions are traded in a deal with the Datamatics value-added network. The Army Materiel Command also begins use of ecweb.net later this month.

"Ecweb.net was born out of the need for government to get out to the small business community in a cheap and cost-effective way," said Chris Treptow, ecweb.net product manager. "When FACNET wasn't working everyone needed...alternatives."

Other customers include the Transportation Department, the United States Information Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs. EC Web expects the Navy to come on board soon.

Ecweb.net requires no client hardware or software for the vendor or contracting agency other than an Internet hook-up and a Web browser. But FACNET was free; ecweb.net's services are not.

With ecweb.net, an agency posts a need for services or products— a solicitation— on the ecweb.net site. Vendors respond to ecweb.net with their bids to close the loop. And when there are enough bids to be competitive, the contracting agency awards the contract, which is in turn posted.

"Ecweb.net's strengths are its cost effectiveness and the ease of use of the system," said Treptow "We are making the data come in the format the small businesses require."

Ecweb.net proved itself during a pilot program at a Department of Health and Human Services product services center with a large transaction volume. The center wanted to link ecweb.net to its existing FACNET infrastructure. "The pilot phase assured that worked great," Treptow said.

The Health Resources and Services Administration started using ecweb.net in January. Beforehand, they used FACNET, and all parties were less than satisfied, the agency said.

"Vendors were complaining they couldn't transmit or they couldn't retrieve solicitations," said Alexandra Garcia, a contracts specialist at HRSA. "With FACNET, the vendor would even sometimes call to ask us to fax a solicitation. Now it's faster, we put a solicitation out there for five days, and people respond. Now it's just electronically going out instead of faxing it or mailing out requests for quotes."

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