Spawar shift to Sun likely to proceed

A former Defense Department information official says that a Navy plan to replace as many as 8,000 shipboard Hewlett-Packard Co. Unix systems with Sun Microsystems Inc. equipment might violate procurement rules. But observers say an HP protest of the move would probably be unsuccessful.

Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar), wants to replace HP servers and workstations running the HP-UX operating system for command and control applications in favor of Sun Solaris systems. Marv Langston, a former Pentagon deputy chief information officer who has done consulting work for HP, said Spawar's failure to conduct a formal source selection might violate government procurement regulations.

Spawar would buy the systems through the Lockheed Martin Corp. Navy Q-70 contract for ruggedized shipboard computers, according to Gauss, who plans to retire from the Navy May 31. The horizontal integration initiative, as he calls it, is not a separate program and draws funding from existing programs.

Langston said he plans to bring up the matter with Rear Adm. Kenneth Slaght, who will succeed Gauss in June.

"I don't know of any acquisition regulation violation there," said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

Gauss' effort would consolidate shipboard servers — from 27 to as few as six on an aircraft carrier, for example — thus making better use of space on ships. "That's a hard argument to overcome," said Bjorklund, who worked with Gauss during the late 1990s at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

While conceding that HP does not sell thin-client systems like Sun's, Ron Ray, an HP Navy sales manager, said service officials should consider the modifications they will have to do to the Sun Solaris operating system to make it work with the Global Command and Control System-Maritime. They've already done that work for HP-UX, he said.

Because Spawar plans to use an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract, it should be even easier for the Navy to avoid a vendor protest, said Chip Mather, senior vice president at Acquisition Solutions Inc., Chantilly, Va. "You don't even have to do a formal source selection" for General Services Administration delivery orders, and IDIQs are even easier to use, he said.


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