Is NetCents-2 finally cleared for takeoff?

Shutterstock image (by Keith Gentry): Harrier jump jet.

(Image: Keith Gentry / Shutterstock)

In the past several weeks, the Air Force has been busily naming vendors for the last spots on its Network Centric Solutions-2 multiple-award IT contracting vehicle.

At the end of March, the service added 10 more vendors to NetCents-2’s Application Services contract, bringing the total number of awardees to 20 out of 21 original bidders. In early April, 17 of 29 bidders made the cut for the small-business portion of the Network Operations and Infrastructure contract. And on May 15, 20 of 21 bidders were named to the full-and-open Network Operations and Infrastructure contract.

It’s a welcome bit of forward momentum — not just for the Air Force, but for the vendors and a wide range of IT buyers across government.

NetCents-2 is a huge acquisition vehicle — a $24 billion, seven-year package of seven indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts. It replaces the Air Force’s existing NetCents contract, which stopped taking orders at the end of fiscal 2013. The last day for performance or delivery of task orders issued under the original NetCents contracts is Sept. 9, 2015.

Like its predecessor, NetCents-2 provides the Air Force with network-centric hardware, software, solutions and services that are not offered by other mandatory-use Defense Department or Air Force vehicles. It is a far broader and more complicated set of contracts, however. Although the original NetCents eventually expanded to an ordering ceiling of $10.5 billion, it was a relatively simple umbrella contract that carried just eight vendors. 

NetCents-2, on the other hand, covers five distinct areas:

  • Application Services.
  • Enterprise Information and Service Management, which provides advisory and assistance services for IT and network-centric enterprise management.
  • IT Professional Support and Engineering Services, which provides program management support and other IT services.
  • NetCentric Products, which provides a full range of technology products.
  • Network Operations and Infrastructure, which provides services and solutions for network operations.

There are dedicated small-business contracts for the Application Services and the Network Operations and Infrastructure components. As this issue of FCW went to press, the Enterprise Information and Service Management contract was the one piece that remained unawarded.

But although the first solicitations for NetCents-2 date back to 2008, getting to the point where all seven contracts are fully operational has been a long and troubled process. Both the March additions to the Application Services contract and the April awards for the small-business Network Operations and Infrastructure contract, for example, were re-competes that came after successful bid protests derailed the initial awards.

The anxiety and vendor pushback surrounding the contracts are not hard to understand, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council. Any federal agency may purchase through most of the NetCents-2 contracts (see below for details). The Air Force, however, is required to use NetCents contracts for any products and services that they cover.

That mandatory-use rule means being named as a vendor on one or more of the NetCents-2 IDIQs is a primary entryway into the Air Force’s IT business, he said.

The IDIQs were set up with heavy input from the Air Force CIO’s office and with significant thought given to how the contracts would fit with the Air Force’s networks and architecture.

“Its unique focus for voice, data and IT solutions as a primary source for the Air Force is not common” in other contracts, Chvotkin added.

The Air Force has heavily committed to the General Services Administration’s $60 billion One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services contracts. In fact, OASIS Executive Program Officer Jim Ghiloni said recently that a third of that vehicle’s task orders have come from the Air Force. But the scope of the two efforts is different, Chvotkin said, adding that OASIS is oriented toward professional services and lacks the IT focus that NetCents-2 offers.

Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, agreed with that assessment and said he views NetCents-2 as competing with GSA’s Alliant and Schedule 70, the Army’s IT Enterprise Solutions-2, and the Navy’s SeaPort-e, among others.

As NetCents-2 moves ahead, the Air Force is using its experience with the predecessor NetCents contract to gauge how the new vehicle will be used, Chvotkin said. “Because of NetCents, they have a good understanding of how the [spending] will work.”

All that protest activity could have an impact, however. “Because it took a while, the scope of work might require some review,” he said. With some awards dating back to 2013, “it will take some watching to keep it current.”

Who NetCents-2 Supports

Not every part of the Air Force’s Network Centric Solutions-2 contract vehicle is available governmentwide, and the conditions under which agencies outside the Air Force can use it varies by contract.

NetOps & Infrastructure Solutions (NETOPS) Application Services Netcentric Products Enterprise Integration & Services Management (EISM) IT Professional Support and Engineering (ITPS)
Air Force ++ ++ ++ ++ ++
Army ++ + + +
Navy/Marines ++ + + +
Other DOD Components ++ + + +
Federal Agencies ++ + + +

++ Customer can use corresponding contracts without restriction

+ Customer can use corresponding contracts when any of the following criteria exists:

  • is related to requirements for interoperability with Air Force capabilities;
  • supports Air Force IT infrastructure, applications, or operations;
  • supports host-tenant arrangements involving Air Force units; or
  • supports joint operations or solutions.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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