Vendors bid brand names for Army PC-3

In a battle of brand names that echoes consumer PC advertising, at least five and possibly up to nine industry teams have submitted bids for the Army's Personal Computer-3 contract, valued in the $200 million to $300 million range and due for award early next year.

The Army Communications-Electronics Command Acquisition Center-Washington (CAC-W) kicked off the brand-name battle by telling prospective bidders that its "preferred solution" would include systems from "Tier One" manufacturers.

CAC-W, which acts as the acquisition agent for the Army Small Computer Program Office, Fort Monmouth, N.J., prefers not only brand names but "state-of-the-art platforms" and a "wide-open tech-insertion" clause to ensure that Army buyers will continue to receive state-of-the-art PCs throughout the three-year, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, dual-award buy.

The Army recently completed testing of the computers offered by the PC-3 bidders at the Technology Integration Center, Fort Huachuca, Ariz. A CAC-W spokeswoman said she anticipates an award in February.

Eben Townes, vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., said he views the Army's preference for name-brand PCs as somewhat unusual, but it is in keeping with the new acquisition era that resulted from broad-scale procurement reform in the Defense Department. Townes said, "Today you can ask for anything you want...and I would suspect that with the volume [of the Army buy], only heavy hitters can play."

Alan Bechara, vice president and chief operating officer of Comark Federal Systems, estimated that the Army probably will buy 50,000 systems a year from the winning bidders, with those systems worth $80 million to $90 million a year. "That's not a bad piece of business," Bechara said, "even if you divide it by two."

Industry consultant Robert Guerra pegged the ultimate value of the PC-3 deal at slightly less than $150 million over the three-year ordering period, saying that based on his analysis of previous Army PC contracts "the [anticipated] volumes are not there."

Sources said potential bidders include Dell Computer Corp., bidding directly; IntelliSys Technology Corp., offering Compaq Computer Corp. PCs; Dunn/IDP Computer Corp., bidding Acer America Corp. desktops; Government Technology Services Inc., offering Hewlett-Packard Co. systems; and Comark and Vanstar Corp. both bidding IBM Corp. PCs. GTSI and Vanstar hold the Army PC-2 pact.

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