ITES: Army's procurement superhero?
- By Frank Tiboni
- Nov 16, 2003
When thinking of the Army's effort to transform, a procurement vehicle does not jump to mind. Yet, Army and industry officials believe that the Information Technology Enterprise Solutions program could be something of a transformational superhero able to leap stovepipes in a single bound and fuse fragmented IT infrastructures.
The Army's business IT infrastructure remains decentralized despite acquisition reforms, hardware consolidation projects and enterprise software license agreements achieved during the past two years. In addition, the military's move toward network-centric operations in Iraq and Afghanistan highlighted weaknesses in the service's warfighting and business IT processes and systems.
But Army and industry officials believe the $1 billion ITES — pronounced "eye-tez" — program, awarded this fall to nine vendors, can start to change that. They say the program will help the Army attain IT equipment and supporting services so troops, intelligence analysts and personnel can communicate more easily.
According to Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS), ITES lets the service do three things:
* Buy IT solutions instead of just buying products.
* Find IT solutions that fit into the service's broader architecture.
* Allow Army agencies to purchase IT solutions that meet enterprise architecture goals.
Carroll said ITES also keeps key Army IT organizations focused on a common goal. PEO-EIS, the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command and the Army's Office of the Chief Information Officer "worked on putting ITES together as a joint team," he said. "ITES allows us to acquire [IT] solutions."
ITES has the potential to enable change because of the way it encourages companies to compete on the basis of the best solution to a particular problem, said Lee Harvey, special assistant to Carroll.
In addition, the program gives Army regional CIOs and IT program managers one contract for seeking end-to-end solutions, he said.
In the past, the Army typically bought from separate desktop PC, notebook PC and services contracts, Harvey said. Attempts to network the products did not work well, and finger-pointing followed, he said.
Army and industry insiders believe the first task orders under ITES — likely available in mid-December to four vendors for equipment and five vendors for support services — will start to tackle those kinds of problems.
"The Army wants to get information to the warfighter" wherever he or she is, said Nick Hemmer, ITES deputy program manager for Lockheed Martin Corp., which won ITES equipment and services contracts. "This is nice to say but not as easily done."
The service's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and Future Combat Systems programs aim to get data to soldiers faster. "Contractually, ITES makes this easier to do," he said.
ITES also marks the Army's push toward performance-based contracting. Army officials also seek technology improvements that meet broader goals of increasing interoperability and collaboration while decreasing IT purchasing and maintenance costs. In part, that means that for the first time Army officials will ask vendors how hardware, software or services can solve a problem instead of telling them how to fix it.
The Army officially launched ITES in mid-2003 when it released the requests for proposals for the equipment and support services contracts. But the program arguably dates back to mid-2001 when then-CIO Gen. Peter Cuviello issued the first of four directives that sought to make service IT organizations network-centric and knowledge-based.
The first Army Knowledge Management memorandum established goals and directions to change the culture in the service's Directorates of Information Management. The memo, co-signed by then-Army Secretary Thomas White and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, took IT acquisition authority from the major commands and gave it to the Office of the CIO at service headquarters in the Pentagon. Cuviello said he took this controversial step because Army technology planning and purchasing lacked cohesion and a departmentwide focus.
In two years, the Army has made much progress. Officials say the service has developed a culture for a knowledge-based organization by adopting knowledge management best practices from industry and academia and by managing its information infrastructure at an enterprise level. It has also established the Army Knowledge Online Web portal and has been doing a better job of tapping employees' skills and talents.
The Army still needs better collaboration, storage, directory, and Web systems and services to achieve the service's main goal — a lighter, rapid-deployable Future Force fielded by the end of the decade, said Col. Mark Barnett, chief of the CIO Information Infrastructure Division.
"The Army's business IT infrastructure is decentralized and fragmented but moving toward a more managed and refined one," Barnett said. "ITES is the performance-based contracting mechanism to get us there."
ITES gives Army headquarters and IT directorates one contracting vehicle to buy technology from an enterprise perspective. If officials want to do a server consolidation project, they will use the $500 million ITES Functional Area-1 contract. If Army officials want to study their infrastructure to prepare for a server consolidation or seat management undertaking, they will choose the $500 million ITES Functional Area-2 contract.
"It's a one-stop IT shopping contract," said Jack Lautenschlager, Northrop Grumman IT's vice president and general manager of communications and infrastructure systems. For example, if an ITES FA-2 support services task order requires hardware, the winning vendor must use one of the ITES FA-1 equipment firms.
ITES also promotes stability and continuity, according to industry sources.
"It lets the Army build stable relationships with trusted industry partners that will be around for awhile," said Rick Deloney, GTSI Corp.'s vice president of business development and program management, whose company serves as one of three small businesses on the contracts.
ITES vendors expect the Army to issue its first program task order in mid- December. Many believe the service will seek another server consolidation project to build on the reduction to 12,478 servers reached during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003, a 30 percent decrease from the 17,818 servers operated during the first quarter of fiscal 2002.
Others think the Army will look to improve network efficiency. Officials formed Task Force Networks in early October to determine how best to acquire commercial satellite communications for their Current Force and Future Force. The task force is also investigating which domestic installations should receive bandwidth improvements and how to integrate active, reserve and National Guard systems to attain one global Army network. The Army could also seek help to develop more centralized IT disaster recovery plans, Barnett said.
"The service cannot afford a backup site for every installation...when a regional, enterprise capability could suffice," he said. Another possible project would decentralize the servers that run the Army Knowledge Online portal. The Army "can't have everyone connecting to AKO at Fort Belvoir, Va.," Barnett said.
Officials at NCI Information Systems, another one of ITES' small businesses, think the first task order will involve IT support services. "It's a major initiative worth $200,000 to $2 million," said David Gardner, the company's senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing.
"We can make our proposals work together," Hemmer said. "They will build on Lockheed's strength as an integrator."
"We are talking to numerous Army customers to use the ITES contract vehicle," Lautenschlager said. "I personally think work will come first from a local" installation.
Thinking big picture
The $1 billion ITES initiative also transforms Army IT contracting. The service used to identify equipment or support services problems, then tell contractors how to solve them. The Army bought hardware, software and services that fixed immediate concerns without considering how they might affect the service's other products, systems and processes.
Typically, the Army also bought IT products and services with little regard to enterprise ramifications. Officials now realize they need to buy IT and services while considering the enterprise architecture.
With ITES, the Army will acquire equipment and support services with the service's greater enterprise infrastructure in mind.
"It is the Army's first indefinite-delivery, indefinite- quantity, performance-based contract," said Barbara Trujillo, an IT E-Commerce and Commercial Contracting Center (ITEC4) officer who was responsible for the ITES awards. "It will be a big benefit for the service. It potentially is a new way of doing business."
ITEC4 and the Army's Small Computer Program hired Acquisition Solutions Inc. to help define and structure the ITES program. "The Army realized just buying products does not solve their problems," said Phil Butler, a partner at the Oakton, Va., IT consulting firm. "The service needs solutions."
When Army officials consolidated servers under its old style of IT contracting, they bought servers without worrying about the next consolidation project. "The Army did 'X' without linking it to 'Y,'" Butler said. "That's just the way business was done."
When Army officials conduct a server consolidation under ITES, the service will ask vendors for suggestions and solutions. "The Army will say, 'This is what we're trying to accomplish. You tell us how to do it,'" said Butler, a former Army IT contracting official.
The Army will issue a statement of objectives to the four ITES equipment or five ITES support services contractors explaining goals. Vendors will submit their solutions, then service officials will evaluate them and award a contract to the best one, Butler said.
Still, ITES serves the Army's main goal — a lighter, rapid-deployable Future Force that will be fielded by decade's end. The service needs IT that lets soldiers, intelligence analysts and personnel more easily find and post information and communicate, Army and industry officials said.
Focusing on a plan
The Army's Information Technology Enterprise Solutions (ITES) contract is designed to support Army enterprise infrastructure and infostructure goals.
According to the statement of objectives, ITES solutions must enhance the service's network-centric operations and support the enterprise. Products and services must not only comply with Defense Department and Army standards and interoperability policies, but should also enhance the service's collaboration capabilities.
Among other objectives for ITES:
* Support the Army's e-commerce system.
* Support the service's data requirements and emerging asset-management initiatives through electronic interfaces.
* Provide compliant, state-of-the-market, sustainable, supportable and interoperable enterprise solutions.
* Utilize subcontractors, including small and disadvantaged businesses, to help meet subcontracting goals.
* Ensure affordable, best-value and best-pricing products and services.
* Identify and implement best commercial practices for the Army's IT business processes.
Source: Information Technology Enterprise Solutions statement of work