Another peach falls from the tree

Solicitation notice

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The Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday issued a draft solicitation notice for its major contracting vehicle known as Peaches 3 and signaled that it plans to increase the use of laptops powerful enough to replace agency desktops.

The draft is the first step toward awarding contracts that will replace the Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software-2 (PCHS-2) contract that is close to reaching its $1.37 billion cap before its 2007 expiration date. All VA agencies and divisions are required to use the contracting vehicle for their information technology purchases.

Ed Meagher, the deputy chief information officer at VA, said the draft notice would be open for vendor comment for the next two weeks. He said the VA plans to issue a request for proposal in the fall, and award the contract next June.

But the draft notice signaled what direction the contract would take in its third generation. It said that all computer workstations are required to have smart card readers as a mandatory component. It prohibited equipment with Bluetooth radios unless the radio can be removed or disabled by the VA before the equipment is provided to an end user.

The solicitation notice did not include dates for bidding deadlines or the total value of the contract. Previously, VA officials said that PCHS-3 contract limits would reflect the department’s huge buying power.

Other requirements outlined in the solicitation notice:

* Systems capable of having software applications installed and maintained at the desktop.

* Mobile computing capabilities and communications capability via both modem and network.

* Systems that can be ordered with or without a monitor.

* Lightweight laptop computers powerful and flexible enough to perform as a desktop replacement.

The notice said the VA also wanted the ability to lease equipment instead of buying it, one of the methods it has been using to save money at various VA medical facilities. And as the VA's Enterprise Architecture evolves, the contractor must be ready to make changes to the contract to ensure EA compliance, the notice said.

Other items that the VA wants in the contract include storage, Internet protocol communications, paperless office and voice-activated computers.

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