Air Force to streamline peripheral buys

Air Force information technology officials are devising a new strategy for how the service should buy and maintain peripherals.

Air Force IT officials will meet with vendors this week to discuss market trends in printers, faxes, copiers and multifunction devices, Air Force and industry officials said. The goal is to have the new acquisition and support strategy available by early summer.

The Air Force prefers to call the policy the digital imaging and printing strategy because peripheral devices can include CD-ROM and Zip drives. The new strategy focuses on printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines, said Ken Heitkamp, Air Force assistant chief information officer for lifecycle management.

The IT Commodity Council wants the digital imaging and printing strategy to accomplish the same goals as its desktop and notebook computer strategy: develop standards, buy hardware at a cheaper price and reduce ownership costs, said Heitkamp, who helped start and direct the council.

The service will devise the policy from market research, vendor meetings and service requirements, said Lt. Col. Thomas Gaylord, deputy director of the Air Force IT Commodity Council. The service formed the agencywide group in July to develop standards for IT architecture, procurement and support.

Air Force IT leaders met in February with officials from some peripheral companies. They will continue the discussion at the AQ Customer Workshop this week in Montgomery, Ala., said service and industry officials.

Agencies purchased more than $800 million worth of peripherals last year using General Services Administration schedule contracts. "This is a significant chunk of change," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

Agencies, though, generally do not focus on these purchases. One problem is that printers, fax machines and copiers are included in bundled computer purchases, so the peripheral devices may not show up in the service's IT inventories, said Allen, whose association helps companies sell products and services to the government.

But Air Force officials are concerned about more than costs.

A peripheral strategy would mark the second policy issued by the Air Force IT Commodity Council. John Gilligan, the service's chief information officer, approved the council's strategy in January for buying and maintaining desktop and notebook computers. That plan mandates that such purchases go through the service's nine major commands and requires that IT and procurement officials consolidate hardware buys using the AFWay online procurement system to get better prices.

Streamlining the Air Force's buying of Microsoft Corp. software could become the IT Commodity Council's third policy. The topic came up during its meetings, a council official said.

The Army signed an enterprise Microsoft license and issued a policy to enforce it.

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