DISA to contract for more collaboration tools

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Aug. 28, 2006. Please visit FCW.com's Corrections & Clarifications blog for more information.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Defense Information Systems Agency will contract for a second set of collaboration tools soon, its director, Lt. Gen. Charles Croom said today. The program will compete with IBM’s Lotus Sametime suite for use across the Defense Department.

Croom said he wants to issue a request for qualifications within 60 days. The contract will be part of the Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) contract vehicle. IBM won the first contract, totaling $17 million, in July for collaboration services including instant messaging, chatting and Web conferencing.

Speaking at AFCEA’s LandWarNet conference here, Croom said he will institute a “two-button” approach in which the tools will sit side by side on DISA’s Defense Knowledge Online Web portal. Users will be able to choose which program best meets their needs, he said.

“We’ll have a little competition going on between Button A and Button B,” Croom said.

This will encourage the vendors to market their products to DOD consumers, further expanding usage, he said. Vendors will also have an incentive to refine their tools to user specifications, he added.

About half a dozen vendors submitted proposals for their collaboration software in the first round, but IBM’s offering was the only one that met the standards and requirements, a DISA spokesperson said.

The agency pays IBM on a fee-per-use basis. Vendors and their congressional allies have offered some resistance to this type of funding arrangement, the spokesperson said.

But the agency will continue using the model. It allows faster and more efficient progress to be made, without lengthy appropriations delays, Croom said. “The more you use it, the more they get paid,” he said.

The strategy fits Croom’s style of “adopt, buy and create,” in descending order of preference, for adding new technologies. Adopting products already in use avoids the acquisition process and buying commercial products moves DOD away from imposing tight government standards, he said.

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