DISA awarded WorldCom the contract to deliver high-speed networking services to the Defense Department's scientific and research communities
The Defense Information Systems Agency last week awarded WorldCom Inc. the much-watched contract to deliver high-speed networking services to the Defense Department's scientific and research communities.
The Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) award came after DISA twice delayed the procurement as a result of financial turmoil at Global Crossing Ltd., the once high-flying fiber-optic company that had originally won the DREN contract. The company filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.
DREN will provide enhanced connectivity to all DOD research communities, according to Natasha Haubold, a WorldCom spokeswoman. The award, a follow-on contract to the DREN Intersite Services Contract awarded in 1996, will provide enhanced wide-area network services to support DOD's High Performance Computing Modernization Program.
The contract is guaranteed for three years and $6 million, but if all options are exercised, it could reach $450 million over 10 years, Haubold said. "Anyone doing DOD research across the [United States], we're connecting those sites and allowing them to better collaborate on DOD initiatives," she said.
New features provided under the contract include large data transfer capabilities and IP multicasting, which makes it possible to send a message to many users at once, according to the company.
The awarding of the DREN contract would have been big news based solely on its potential value and service offerings; however, Global Crossing's financial woes have intensified the focus on the project.
DISA awarded the DREN contract to Global Crossing last year, then withdrew the offer after a number of protests from the other competing vendors — WorldCom, AT&T, Sprint and Qwest Communications International Inc.
After re-launching the solicitation, DISA had planned to award the contract Jan. 28, just days before Global Crossing filed for bankruptcy. But that announcement was postponed. DISA was then going to award the contract last month but notified vendors that it was holding off until at least April.
It is unclear whether any of the competing companies who were passed over for the award will file a protest.
Global Crossing spokeswoman Catherine Berthier said April 5 that the company had just received the official notification. "We're still studying it," she said.
Sprint spokesman John Polivka, however, said his company would not protest the award. "This ends the suspense over the outcome," he said.
The DREN loss could mark the end of Global Crossing's federal presence, although company officials denied reports that it had closed its federal office. Berthier acknowledged that there have been layoffs at the company, but said, "We're not ready to announce anything specific in terms of layoffs."
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