DISA close to awarding $3B circuit contract

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is close to awarding a contract worth as much as $3 billion for circuits to connect 1,500 U.S. locations to the Global Information Grid (GIG), a top agency official said Monday.

The agency plans to award its Defense Information Systems Network Access Transport Services (DATS) procurement by the end of October, said Cindy Moran, DISA’s chief of the Center for Network Services, speaking at the DISA Industry Day conference.

The DATS procurement calls for the provision of up to 5,000 circuits to connect bases, posts, camps and stations, as well as stand-alone Defense Department buildings and activities to the agency’s nationwide fiber optic GIG backbone.

According to past statements by agency officials, DATS covers a wide range of the circuit’s requirements, ranging from 3 KHz voice circuits to 10 gigabits/sec data links.

DISA has said it plans to award four DATS contracts, each covering a different service region of the United States. AT&T and Verizon announced they were bidding, and industry sources say Qwest is pursuing business in the mountain West region.

Even as DISA prepares to award the DATS contract, the agency is evaluating proposals for the $13 billion Encore II services contracts. The agency does not anticipate the award until the second quarter of fiscal 2007, Evelyn DePalma, director of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization (DITCO), told the conference.

She said the delay in the award was directly related to the large number of proposals DITCO had received -- as many as 75 bidders, according to one industry source -- and the time it was taking to evaluate them all properly.

DePalma said DITCO will award the large business Encore II contracts first, with the award of the small business contracts three or four months later. Due to delays in the award of Encore II, DITCO recently raised the ceiling value on the original Encore contract from $2.5 billion to $3.1 billion.

One forthcoming procurement is proving to be more complicated. In July, DISA awarded IBM the first of two Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) collaboration services contracts. The $17 million deal calls for the company to provide instant messaging, low-bandwidth text chat and Web conferencing to Defense Department users on a managed services basis.

But DISA is running into troubles awarding the second contract. DISA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom said the agency is hearing that vendors do “not want to play with us” because of the NCES pricing model. Croom asked industry to provide input on changes that need to be made.

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