AF postpones software strategy

The Air Force has delayed devising a strategy for buying a single enterprise management software package, a decision that could profoundly affect the Defense Department's future enterprise network plans.

The Air Force still plans to award a contract for EMS by the end of September, but the service has put a hold on developing an acquisition strategy because program officials claimed they lacked a mandate from a senior panel of acquisition officials that would allow them to proceed with the procurement of a single EMS solution.

Air Force's choice of a single software product may affect DOD as a whole because any Air Force deal would be made available to all DOD offices and agencies.

Valued at more than $100 million, the intent of the EMS program is to provide DOD's large-scale data processing centers with basic network, systems and application management capabilities. The program also will support DOD's overall strategy for the Global Networked Information Enterprise (GNIE), a program to establish key networking policies for DOD's enterprise architecture.

"We concluded that we could not meet [the Air Force chief information officer's] requirement of a single solution...without a mandated policy," said Linda Jean, the Air Force Electronic Systems Center's program manager for enterprise management capability. "Our recommendation was to establish [blanket purchase agreements] with multiple product providers and also establish BPAs with service providers to support the products."

In a memorandum dated March 2, the Air Force CIO, Lt. Gen. Gregory Martin, directed ESC to devise a plan for procuring a single, common software solution to manage Air Force networks and software applications. Martin also stipulated that the acquisition vehicle negotiated by ESC should offer "all DOD departments and agencies" the ability to purchase the software.

Although the Air Force's EMS decision may have an impact on DOD's policies for GNIE, a spokeswoman for DOD said it is doubtful that a DOD-wide policy mandating the use of a single product would be issued in the near future.

"If the Air Force wishes to mandate a standard product for AF use, that is their call," the DOD spokeswoman said.

According to Jean, EMS program officials plan to meet in August with an acquisition strategy panel to hammer out the details of the plan.

"It is anticipated that if a mandate were obtained, we would then conduct a full-and-open competition seeking a best-value solution for a single product as the overall enterprise management capability," Jean said. "If a mandate is not forthcoming, it is anticipated that the strategy would remain with multiple BPAs."

According to Robert Guerra, president of the consulting firm Robert J. Guerra & Associates, EMS is "one of those areas where the policy cannot be dictated and therefore will set itself."

A mandate that dictates the use of a single solution for enterprise management "would cause enormous disruption to the operations of many, if not most, DOD enterprises" as DOD agencies and offices would have to purchase and install new software, Guerra said.

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Enterprise management software requirements:

Network management* Fault isolation* Performance analysis/capacity planning* Configuration management* Information security/information assurance

Systems management* Help desk* Administration functions* Software distribution* Asset and inventory accountability* Server management* Performance management* Configuration management* Information security/information assurance

Application management* Performance analysis* Configuration management* Software distribution

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