Army takes over Navy's mega-IT contracts

San Diego—The Army plans to take the lead in acquiring high-end computer systems and databases for the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

On Jan. 11, the Army plans to release a request for proposals for the Army Small Computer Program's Mini Maxi and Database contract and plans to make awards to two prime contractors early in May, said Yvonne Jackson, product manager for the Army Small Computer Program at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

The contract will serve as the follow-on to the Navy's Super Minicomputer contract—which offers high-performance networks, computers, software and peripherals using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT and Unix operating systems—and the Database Machines contract, which the Navy uses primarily to purchase database products and services that will help agencies move from proprietary systems to open client/server environments.

The Army's Mini Maxi and Database contract, an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that could be worth about $580 million, will combine high-end workstations, servers and database machines, Jackson said.

The Army may release a draft RFP the first week of December, said Thomas Leahy, deputy product manager for the Army Small Computer Program, during an interview at the Navy's Connecting Technology Fall '99 symposium here last week. A pre-solicitation industry briefing attracted about 25 vendors, he said.

The Army will be the lead agency on the new contract, but the Navy, the Defense Logistics Agency and the Internal Revenue Service will work jointly with the Army on the contract's requirements, source selection process, statement of work, specifications and other areas, Jackson said.

The current Navy contracts, awarded in 1992, have sold about $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in equipment and services, said Nikki Isfahani, program manager of the Navy's Information Technology Umbrella Program in San Diego. The Army is the designated DOD lead on databases for the Enterprise Software Initiative, a program to leverage DOD's enormous buying power to lower prices on numerous commercial off-the-shelf products. That makes the Army the logical choice to manage the database contract, she said.

The evolution of network technology in servers and databases has made it possible to combine the Super-Minicomputer and Database Machine contract requirements into one acquisition, Isfahani said.

"When we looked at the business case analysis of our requirements and our resources, it made more sense" to give the contract administration to the Army, Isfahani said. "The Army was going to do the acquisitions anyway."

The competitive commercial market requires management of the contract to be flexible, said Lou Kirby, vice president and general manager of the Super-Minicomputer Program for Litton/PRC Inc., the incumbent Super-Minicomputer 2 contractor. Litton/PRC plans to offer a proposal for the new Army contract, he said.

Customers want the latest and greatest technology, and if the contract is not flexible enough to include the hottest market items as they are released, those agencies will turn elsewhere for the products, he said. "Cumbersome technology refreshment will not succeed," Kirby said. "The loyalty to a particular contract vehicle isn't there. The market has too many alternatives."

Litton/PRC will stop accepting orders May 31, 2002. The Database Machine contract, held by Wang Global and NCR Corp., will be complete by Aug. 30, 2001.

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