DISA to piggyback on ITES-2S

The Defense Information Systems Agency won’t issue a request for proposals for its Service-Oriented Architecture Foundation (SOAF) project, as it originally announced. To avoid a possible protest and speed the process, DISA will fund the project using the Army’s Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-2 Services  contract vehicle.

DISA Director Lt. Gen. Charles Croom and Army Chief Information Officer Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle announced in a press release April 6 that SOAF would be funded through ITES-2S. DISA and the Army decided ITES-2S was sufficiently broad and flexible to satisfy the requirements to deliver SOAF services, the release states. Those services include enterprise service discovery, machine-to-machine messaging, mediation and enterprise service management.

The SOAF project will bring DISA’s Net-Centric Enterprise Services initiative to Milestone C, due by March 2008, according to a DISA spokesman. NCES reached Milestone B last month.

At their industry day last October, DISA officials had told the community that an RFP for the SOAF project was forthcoming. Some contractors have already stood up teams to develop competition strategies for the award.

But during the winter, DISA decided that a full and open competition for SOAF would make it impossible to meet the NCES deadlines, the spokesman said. Following protests of several large IT enterprise contract awards, DISA decided to remove the chance of protracted delays on NCES, he added.

“We couldn’t take the risk of [the SOAF award] being protested, because that would prevent us from reaching Milestone C,” the spokesman said.

DISA is aware that companies not party to ITES-2S might take issue with the contracting strategy, according to the spokesman. To mitigate that sentiment, the agency will actively encourage those companies to become subcontractors to ITES-2S prime vendors, he said.

“We don’t know still what the fallout might be,” the DISA spokesman said. On the upside, NCES will remain on track and the SOAF, the glue that holds NCES together, should be delivered on time, he said.

Industry experts agreed with DISA that ITES-2S was large and open enough for the SOAF initiative. With its 16 companies, $20 billion ceiling and far-reaching scope, ITES-2S is completely appropriate for use in this manner, said Robert Guerra, partner at Guerra, Kiviat and Associates.

“If these companies can’t do it, who can?” asked Guerra, referring to the 11 original ITES-2S awardees: Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI-Information Systems Support, Computer Sciences Corp., EDS, General Dynamics, IBM, Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Science Applications International Corp, Apptis, QSS and STG.

The competition will take place inside the ITES-2S vehicle as task orders are handed out, Guerra said, and companies will still have the opportunity to protest if they feel task orders aren’t being awarded fairly. Also, the Army can delegate the contracting authority for the SOAF project to DISA if they so desire, he said.

The ITES-2S vehicle is good for DISA because it allows the agency to procure solutions through financing rather than ownership, Guerra said. DISA and the Army are realizing that the industry practice to purchase IT as services while letting vendors worry about keeping and maintaining the hardware is the way to go, he added.

ITES-2S was protested in May 2006 when losing bidders complained to the Government Accountability Office that the Army had improperly conducted the bid evaluations and incorrectly evaluated some financial information in the submissions. The Army withdrew the awards and later awarded them again to the same 11 companies.

Following another round of protests in July, which GAO upheld, the Army allowed the five losing bidders — BAE Systems North America, Northrop Grumman, NCI Information Systems, Multimax and Pragmatics — onto the contract in exchange for their dropping their legal challenges.

ITES-2S is a follow-on to the $1 billion ITES-Enterprise Mission Support Services Solutions contract issued in 2003. DISA’s I-Assure 2 contract is also stalled pending the resolution of a protest action.

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