Army saves on laptops

At a time when most other federal organizations have bypassed traditional contracts in favor of streamlined procurements, the Army last week awarded two conventional contracts that will reduce its cost of buying laptop computers by more than 50 percent.

The winning bids submitted by GTSI and Intelligent Decisions Inc. for the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity Portable-3 program—which covers the purchase of 15,000 Pentium II computers—came in well below the $90 million value the Army had estimated for each bid.

Intelligent Decisions won with a bid of $43.5 million, FCW has learned, while GTSI won with a $52.8 million bid. Intelligent Decisions plans to offer portable computers from Compaq Computer Corp., and GTSI plans to offer portables from Panasonic.

Both bidders are required to open up their contracts for ordering within 60 days, which could be good timing, given the substantial force of ground troops the Army plans to deploy to the Balkans as part of a Kosovo peacekeeping force.

GTSI, which holds the Portable-2 contract—extended by the Army until the end of fiscal 1999—already has started taking a "substantial" inventory position in portable computers in anticipation of heavy demand by forces deployed in the Balkans, according to Joel Lipkin, the company's vice president for business development.

GTSI plans to offer a full line of Panasonic semirugged and rugged notebooks on the Portable-3 contract, as well as a 3-pound subnotebook from Hewlett-Packard Co., Lipkin said. GTSI offers notebooks from Everex Systems Inc. and Compaq, but Lipkin said the tough Panasonics better fit the needs of Army users in the field. Lipkin declined to provide pricing until all competitors are debriefed this week.

Inacom Government Systems Inc., which holds the other Portable-2 contract, also submitted a bid of $52.8 million for Portable-3, offering portables from Gateway Inc., industry sources said. Mark O'Donnell, Inacom's sales vice president, said the company does not plan to protest the award, even though its bid was identical to GTSI's.

GTSI and Intelligent Decisions priced their offerings substantially lower than other bidders in the field of seven, according to industry sources. Intelligent Decisions executives did not return calls from FCW asking for further details on the company's Portable-3 offerings.

According to industry sources, ITC (formerly IntelliSys Technology Corp.), which this February won an Army PC-3 contract, came in "way high" on Portable-3, with an offer of about $65 million, as did Comark Federal Systems Inc. FCW could not determine the price of Telstar's offer or identify the seventh bidder in the field.

Eben Townes, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., said the Army has proven that IDIQs still have a place in the streamlined procurement era. "The Army has shown it can run a fast IDIQ compared to the old days, when it took four years to do one, and you still ended up with a protest."

The Army also proved it can get a good price on an IDIQ because those contracts involve buying in bulk, Townes said.

IDIQs also have great utility in providing a wide range of users with standardized systems and configurations, Townes said.

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