Faster, easier DOD EMall planned

To encourage more contracting officers to use the Defense Department's Electronic Mall for online purchases, Defense Logistics Agency officials intend to make the system faster and easier to use.

The DOD EMall, which DLA took over from the Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office earlier this year, is intended as a one-stop shopping place for the military services. But problems with the system made military purchasing officials reluctant to use it.

"We're working on faster response time. Right now, we're heavily dependent on network latency time for distributed queries," said Don O'Brien, the DOD EMall program manager. And the system could be made easier to use by reducing the number of mouse clicks needed to place an order from 10 to four, he said.

During the summer, DLA officials plan to begin a six- to nine-month test of Ariba Inc.'s Marketplace and Network Connect products, O'Brien said.

Marketplace will provide users with a virtual shopping cart based on Extensible Markup Language. Network Connect will allow shoppers to leave the EMall to select products from various vendors' Web sites then return to the EMall to make the purchases, he said.

"The vendor passes the shopping cart back to us for the ordering," O'Brien said.

The Army does not allow its contracting officers to use the DOD EMall. "They don't want their folks to double-enter data," O'Brien said, since they have to record delivery orders in a legacy financial management system. He said the Air Force lifted restrictions on use of the system in January. The Navy has never restricted use of the EMall, he said.

In fiscal 2000, vendors reported $178 million in DOD EMall purchases, three times the 1999 total, O'Brien said. About 12 million items from 316 vendors are available through the EMall.

Although the EMall has a separate section for information technology purchases, much of the ordering has been for clothing and textile products, O'Brien said.

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