CDW-G wins AF box buy

The Air Force late last month awarded CDW-G Inc., Chantilly, Va., an $83 million blanket purchase agreement covering desktop, portable and server systems.

The two-year deal with CDW-G, signed July 23, broadens the desktop, server and portable offerings available on the Air Force Standard Systems Group's Information Technology Tools.

SSG began the IT2 initiative in the spring by selecting computer manufacturers to supply desktops, peripherals and rugged portables. In this latest round, SSG was looking for a reseller that could provide systems from multiple manufacturers. The SSG procurement shop now plans to move forward with BPAs covering networking, teleconferencing, software and accessories.

When IT2 is complete, the Air Force 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.

The CDW-G award adds desktops and servers from Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to systems already available from BPA-holders Dell Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and Micron Electronics Inc. In addition, the CDW-G agreement also will offer notebook systems from Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.

"CDW-G offered us an outstanding proposal," said Air Force Lt. Col. Glenn Taylor, director of SSG's Commercial Information Technology Product Area Directorate. In fact, the BPA offers DOD customers the opportunity to purchase the systems at a discounted rate of 10 percent to 38 percent off the General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule price, he said. "This also gives our customers a few more options and more choice," Taylor said.

The strength of CDW-G's proposal came from the company's ability to communicate with a buyer on the buyer's terms, said Larry Kirsch senior vice president of CDW-G. "Dedicated CDW-G extranets will be available to every Air Force buyer worldwide," Kirsch said. "Our system is completely dynamic" and includes customized support information for government contracting personnel.

For example, for buyers going through CDW-G for one of the products on the BPA, the extranet system will provide phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all support personnel working on an order. It will even provide detailed status information on whether the person they are trying to contact at CDW-G is in the building.

Other key features of CDW-G's support program include dedicated toll-free numbers, free custom hardware integration services, free lifetime technical support, enhanced product details, side-by-side product comparison capability and up-to-the-minute status information on orders.

"This is not a stretch for us," Kirsch said, referring to the custom services as "core competencies" and things the company does every day for all of its customers. "Our history has proven that of our orders that are in stock, approximately 98 percent ship the same day," he said. The IT2 BPA is CDW-G's biggest contract with the federal government.

Although the initial BPAs were geared toward many of the direct sales vendors, such as Dell and Gateway, this deal was geared toward attracting the high-quality original equipment manufacturers, Taylor said.

"This Air Force agreement gives every buyer the advantage of having a secure extranet with sophisticated purchase tracking and inventory control information," Steve Charles vice president of consulting firm immixGroup. "It shows how the government is beginning to use e-commerce to capture inventory information while making it easier for buyers to get what they need."

To select IT2 vendors, Taylor said SSG used a study of computer manufacturers conducted by Gartner Group Inc. The purpose of using the Gartner Group-listed vendors was to provide the government with assurances that the systems are manufactured by vendors that are financially healthy and viable and that have broad commercial customer support in the market.

Although the strength of the IT2 approach is the ability to offer customers the latest technology at attractive prices, the products selected still represent a "best-value approach," Taylor said.

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