Small biz gets shot at rugged program

Small businesses are being given a starring role in the latest solicitations on the Air Force Standard Systems Group's Information Technology Tools (IT2) program, including the first contract vehicle focused solely on rugged devices.

Louis Toledo, chief of the hardware branch in SSG's acquisition directorate, said two requirements were announced last week: systems accessories and rugged devices, both of which are limited to small businesses.

System accessories include everything from memory cards to video cards, and rugged devices run the gamut from handheld units to tablet PCs to notebooks, Toledo said.

"What's different here is that we're setting aside for small businesses two excellent areas for [them] to compete in and help the Air Force meet present and future requirements," he said. "The rugged [award] will be the first time the Air Force has one contract vehicle for these devices."

Companies have until July 9 to submit proposals for the two blanket purchase agreements (BPAs), and awards should be made by the end of August, Toledo said. The combined total value of the BPAs is $233 million, and each contract has one base year and two one-year options.

System accessories will be worth about $60 million and the remaining $170 million will be for rugged devices. The system accessories BPA includes nine product categories: storage, monitors, memory, computer components, network accessories, handhelds, peripherals, power supply and shipping cases.

Rugged devices are defined as "portable computing devices that have been designed to withstand drops, water/moisture, heat, cold, shock and/or dust." The Air Force solicitation includes 22 devices.

Toledo said his office has already received a lot of feedback and inquiries from small businesses interested in competing for the awards, but he said it's still too early to tell how many proposals will be received. He added that the two BPAs are part of Block 4 of the IT2 program, and later this year the Air Force may re-compete the desktop contract under the same block.

When Block 4 ends and the next one begins is "nebulous" right now, Toledo said, but the recently created Air Force Information Technology Commodity Council will provide direction and strategies for future contracts.

Once the BPAs are awarded, Air Force customers will be able to purchase the solutions through Air Force Way, the service's main online system for purchasing and tracking IT products.


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