Cursed Contract

Is the Defense Department's DREN contract cursed?

The troubled history of the Defense Department's $450 million contract to build a high-speed network for researchers took another hairpin turn. Earlier this month, Sprint and Global Crossing Ltd. once again filed protests against the Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) award, contesting DOD's choice of WorldCom Inc.

One may wonder why anyone would want to win this contract — the two companies that have won include Global Crossing and WorldCom, both of which are having significant financial problems.

But conventional wisdom suggests that the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will withdraw its award to WorldCom after it disclosed major accounting problems.

Neither Sprint nor Global Crossing would comment extensively on their protests. The protests are believed to question WorldCom's ability to carry out its contractual duties.

"Having completed most of our restructuring activities, we are well on our way to completing a successful reorganization," said Global Crossing officials in a statement, suggesting that they were wrongly removed from the DREN competition.

Meanwhile, a DISA spokeswoman said that the agency is evaluating the merits of the protests filed by Sprint and Global Crossing. "A decision will be made shortly whether to voluntarily stay contract performance," she said.

No orders have been placed against the contract so far, she noted.

Targeting 803

Industry groups have taken aim at a Section 803 provision that attempts to mandate that service buys from the General Service Administration's schedule be firm fixed-priced contacts.

The groups have been ramping up their lobbying campaign to include contacts on Capitol Hill, going beyond procurement wonks. Vendors are trying to illustrate the importance of the schedule contracts to DOD's warfighting mission. DOD turned to a GSA schedule contractor when it needed to translate the Osama bin Laden tapes — a deal that would have been difficult to do via a firm fixed-price contract, vendors say.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy, however, has been defending the provision. An OFPP official called Federal Computer Week to contest the claim that the policy is new. The rule exists in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the OFPP official said.

When will the rule appear? Keep an eye on the Federal Register.

A Hamster Wheel

"Director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation" is to the point as far as DOD titles go, and retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski immediately liked it for that reason. But now he said he's not sure it sends the right message.

Speaking last week at a globalization and anti-access conference at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., Cebrowski said the title is "very operational" and indicates that he directs people and resources, "and I try hard not to do much of that," because people who attempt to do those tasks inside the Beltway often make little progress.

"People who do that in Washington are inside the hamster wheel," he said. "Even by adding your body weight and intelligence, it's a negligible increase to the mass of that wheel," which does not mean their contributions are not important, "they are just swept up by the wheel."

Cebrowski said he sees himself as more of a focal point, or catalyst, for transformation within DOD.

Catalyst of the Office of Force Transformation? Sounds good to us.

Intercept something? Send it to [email protected]

About the Authors

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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