Vendors await DOD BPA bonanza

The Air Force and the Marine Corps are gearing up for two rounds of blanket purchase agreements covering standard desktops, servers, portable systems and support services that must take into account the military services' global mission.

The Air Force Standard Systems Group plans to award today BPAs worth $30 million for rugged portable computer systems to companies that hold a General Services Administration Federal Supply Service schedule.

Likewise, the Marine Corps last week began receiving bids for BPAs that will offer the Corps technology refreshment for at least 3,600 servers, 7,500 desktops and 39,000 laptops over three years.

The Air Force's Information Technology 2 Rugged Portable Computers BPA calls on vendors to supply rugged laptops capable of resisting water damage and extreme temperature swings and that will operate even after being dropped from heights of 10 to 20 inches.

The BPA is part of SSG's overall "IT2" initiative, which began in March with the award of six BPAs for desktops and peripherals. When IT2 is complete, SSG will have put in place enough BPAs to replace a wide variety of indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, including Desktop V, one of the Defense Department's oldest and most successful PC procurement programs.

Potential bidders for SSG's IT2 contract include Dunn/IDP Computer Corp., Government Technology Services Inc. and Inacom Government Systems Inc. (see "At a Glance").

Robert Guerra, president of consulting firm Robert J. Guerra & Associates, said that although the Air Force BPA calls for ruggedized laptops, it really is a commercial off-the-shelf procurement. "Whereas they used to build these monstrosity boxes to DOD specifications to protect the unit from nuclear blasts, today they shock-mount all the drives to withstand rugged terrain," Guerra said. "Companies in the oil exploration, research and environmental businesses use them all the time."

The Marine Corps plans to make its latest round of BPAs, which fall under its Information Technology Infrastructure program, the "mandatory ordering vehicle" for all Marine Corps organizations, according to the request for quotations. The Navy, the Coast Guard and other DOD organizations also will be able to order off the Marine Corps BPA.

The final RFQ lists 51 vendors as "interested parties" for this new BPA. That list also includes Dunn, GTSI and Inacom, as well as Dell Computer Corp., Intergraph Corp., Micron Electronics Inc. and Westwood Computer Corp. (see box).

"This BPA gives us the flexibility to get good prices from industry and allows the field commands to use limited fiscal resources to execute [their IT strategy] in a coordinated fashion with our central [strategy]," said Col. Mike Cooper, the Marines' assistant deputy chief information officer.

"This process keeps the mix of equipment standard and registered to our central database. Plus it gives the commanders the ability to customize the look and feel of their IT environment without going outside the box developed with the [Marine Corps'] annual plan," Cooper said. "As we mature and develop stable resource requirements, we can focus more and more on core technology replacement from a central BPA-based process."

Rinaldi Pisani, national government sales manager for Westwood, which recently won the IT2 Input/Output peripherals BPA issued by SSG, confirmed that Westwood intends to bid on the Marine Corps BPA.

"We plan on bidding a tier-one manufacturer with a strong warranty offering," Pisani said. "We feel that the Marine Corps could benefit from an offering similar to" the Air Force's IT2 I/O contract, he said. Westwood sells servers, laptops, desktops and peripherals from several manufacturers.

John Saling, director of federal sales for Keydata International Inc., said his company is revamping its global support services specifically to meet the requirement of these BPAs.

Saling said the Air Force in the past has excluded some vendors, including small businesses and companies new to the federal market, because of concerns about them being able to support large-scale contracts. "Everyone should be given a fair shot," Saling said.

"With the advent of the government moving toward fast-track BPAs instead of [governmentwide acquisition contracts] and IDIQ contracts, there seems to be a trend of requesting only IT solutions from enterprise-level manufacturers,"

Saling said. "I am happy to see that the Marine Corps is loosening the specifications to potentially include many vendors and is even promoting small-business relationships. After all, today's mail-order company may be tomorrow's big PC vendor."

However, Charlie Brown, executive manager for Intergraph Federal Systems, said he has heard from technical analysts that the Marine Corps' server requirements as outlined in this latest BPA may be too aggressive for companies that do not have a global operation to rely on.

"It's going to be difficult for a lot of [vendors] that are not global companies to meet these requirements," Brown said. In fact, "there may not be anybody who can do it," particularly on the server side, he said.

According to Guerra, there should be some concern with DOD's IT commodity contracts going to manufacturers that use the direct model.

"While the direct manufacturers like Dell, Gateway [Inc.] and Micron can meet the basic fulfillment requirements, they simply cannot afford the infrastructure needed to truly support a [global] organization," Guerra said.

"There are issues like toll-free international help lines, getting products through customs in all those countries quickly and maintenance costs in locations [outside the United States]," Guerra said. "The systems integrator/reseller community is much more empathetic to those issues and often has made provisions for these circumstances."

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AT A GLANCE

Potential bidders for Air Force IT2 Rugged Portable Contract:(based on SSG documents)* Commax Technologies Inc.* Dunn/IDP Computer Corp.* Government Micro Resources Inc.* Government Technology Services Inc.* McBride & Associates Inc.* Micronics Computers Inc.* Pulsar Data Systems Inc.* Telos Corp.* Inacom Government Systems Inc.

Potential bidders for Marine Corps BPAs:(based on Marine Corps documents)* CompUSA Federal* Data General Federal* Dell Computer Corp.* Dunn/IDP Computer Corp.* GE Capital IT Solutions* Government Technology Services Inc.* Intergraph Corp.* Keydata International Inc.* Micron Electronics Inc.* NCR Corp.* Panasonic Personal Computer Co.* SMAC Data Systems Inc.* Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.* Inacom Government Systems Inc.* Westwood Computer Corp.

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