Air Force plans computer BPA

Air Force officials are close to signing four deals that will make the idea of standard-issue computers as close to reality as it can get.

The blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) will cover desktop and laptop computers and low-end servers from Dell Inc., Gateway Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and MPC Computers LLC.

The BPAs are intended to cover every mainstream computer purchase in the coming years. Air Force personnel who have special requirements will have to apply for a waiver from the chief information officer, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Gaylord, deputy director of the Air Force Information Technology Commodity Council.

Air Force officials expect to see significant savings by negotiating volume-based pricing with the four vendors. But just as important, having a limited number of desktop configurations will make it easier for Air Force organizations to manage the systems.

In a similar vein, the service recently completed a servicewide agreement with Microsoft Corp. for operating system and office productivity software. The Air Force was already a major Microsoft customer, but was buying software through 43 contracts. As of June 30, the service has one enterprise software agreement, for which it will pay approximately $86 million a year.

As with the hardware, having standard software configurations will be a boon for IT support staff, Gaylord said. They will be able to apply a consistent set of tools and procedures to maintain the systems, such as when software patches are needed, he said.

Air Force officials, meanwhile, plan to award three more enterprise hardware contracts, this time with small businesses. Two will be awarded to small-business resellers and one to a manufacturer. Computer users who need high-performance systems not covered by the four forthcoming BPAs will be encouraged to buy their systems from small businesses.

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