DOD to shut e-commerce centers

The Defense Department plans to close its network of electronic commerce centers it established nine years ago to help small and medium-size companies do business electronically with Defense agencies.

There are 17 regional Electronic Commerce Resource Centers around the country that offer training, outreach and technical support programs to help businesses adopt e-commerce, which DOD requires most of its suppliers to use. The centers also support such government entities as Navy bases.

DOD's Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office sponsors the ECRC program as a way to help the department's 300,000 trading partners and potential partners to move to e-commerce. DOD finances the centers so the businesses receive the services at little or no cost.

However, in a May 16 letter to ECRC customers, DOD program director Linda Fowble said the ECRC program would end Sept. 30. "There are no plans to continue the program beyond this date." In the letter, Fowble gave no explanation for the decision, and DOD has been unable to make anyone available for comment.

ECRC directors and others involved in the program who were contacted by FCW say they do not know for certain why DOD decided to end the program, but suggest that some centers may continue to exist in other incarnations and may charge fees.

DOD operates the ECRC program through prime contracts with Concurrent Technologies Corp. and CAMP Inc. Those contracts will end Sept. 30.

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