DOD preps software mega-deals

The Defense Department is gearing up for another major round of DOD-wide software deals, with more database awards expected to come within the next 30 days and several more awards in other software categories due out by the end of the year.

The new software plans, announced last week by senior DOD officials during the annual Acquisition and Logistics Reform conference at the Pentagon, come just two weeks after the Army negotiated a deal with Oracle Corp. on behalf of DOD for a blanket purchase agreement covering database software, development tools and services.

In addition to a second round of database awards, DOD will complete a series of "quick hit" software agreements covering office automation, enterprise management, records management and information assurance by the end of the year, said Rex Bolton, chairman of DOD's Enterprise Software Initiative Working Group.

Bolton said DOD already is "very close" to finalizing a deal for office automation software from Corel Corp. "at extremely attractive" pricing. According to Bolton, the BPAs are volume pricing deals tied to the vendors' GSA schedules, so DOD cannot tell exactly how much business it will capture with any one vendor. However, "we expect a gradual migration away from existing contracts to this BPA as we advertise and attract business," Bolton said. In fact, while not mandating their use, DOD plans to issue a policy next month that encourages the use of DOD enterprise software agreements, Bolton said.

The initial $9.8 million Oracle task order, announced May 27, includes an offering called "Special Solutions," which is intended to accommodate large enterprise agreements by providing larger discounts, according to a spokesman for the Army's Small Computer Program. The initial Oracle BPA is available to all DOD agencies, including the National Guard and Reserves, as well as the intelligence community, the spokesman said.

"Our vision is 'point-and-click' [information technology] shopping at the lowest cost," Bolton said. DOD's Enterprise Software Initiative "is focused on saving money and improving interoperability by offering great deals on a choice of leading software products," Bolton said. "This maintains competition after award and has the potential for saving more money in the short term."

In fact, DOD already has managed to negotiate a laundry list of deals that have saved the department in some cases up to 63 percent off the General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule price. For example, visualization and graphics products from Visio Corp. already are available DOD-wide at an approximate 50 percent discount off the GSA schedule price, Bolton said.

In addition, Oracle offers discounts of up to 28 percent off the GSA schedule, with "much greater discounts for special orders exceeding $5 million," he said.

Marv Langston, DOD's deputy CIO, said one of the biggest concerns of the Enterprise Software Initiative Steering Group, of which the ESI Working Group is a part, is finding efficient ways to update and maintain existing applications. "We are all about saving money on commercial software," Langston said. Modifying commercial software "is really a road to hell in many respects," he said.

According to Langston, DOD has approached GSA with the idea of finding a way for other agencies to jump on the bandwagon and take advantage of DOD's negotiating prowess.

"DOD is really onto something with this program, [and] the Enterprise Software Initiative team deserves a medal," said Chip Mather, senior vice president at Chantilly, Va.-based Acquisition Solutions Inc.

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