Contract Guide: NetCents-2: Air Force Builds a Bridge to the Future

Products break out for lower prices, better IT

With the latest contract, Air Force broadens the field of competition

NetCents-2 Products is one of the biggest single contract vehicles in the net-centric initiative, both in dollar terms and vendor participation. It will be a major source for product solutions supporting the Air Force’s lower-cost effort to push higher-capacity computing and communications to warfighters worldwide.

Initially aimed at including only eight vendors, a series of protests and rejiggering of the contract left NetCents-2 Products carrying 25 companies, one shy of the total that initially bid on the contract. It could last for as long as six years and book as much as $6.9 billion worth of business. It opened for ordering at the beginning of 2014.

By comparison, NetCents-1 had only eight vendors for its life span. If it reaches its ceiling, NetCents-2 Products alone will produce just less than 70 percent of the total business that NetCents-1 produced in its 10 years.

The contract will offer a wide range of products for Air Force users, such as networking equipment, servers, storage, peripherals, multimedia hardware, software, and identity management and biometric hardware and software. Any Air Force IT users who have a requirement for these products must go through NetCents-2 for their purchase.

The contract is aimed at supporting a range of Air Force and Defense Department initiatives, such as the Global Information Grid, the Defense Information Infrastructure and information sharing generally.

The new NetCents-2 contract is a reflection of the lessons learned from NetCents-1, especially the limits that such a small number of vendors for the entire contract placed on the Air Force’s ability to reduce the cost of the products it needed.

“We found we were not receiving the best price efficiencies that we would have liked to achieve,” said Robert Smothers, NetCents-2 program manager, in a recent interview. “By breaking out NetCents-2 the way we did and having the Products category stand out on its own, we felt we would be able to get to more of the direct sellers and original equipment manufacturers.”

NetCents-2 Products could also be a significant source of income for small businesses. In addition to requiring that 23 percent of the total obligated contract dollars be directed toward small-business subcontracts, individual contracting officers have the discretion to invoke a fair-opportunity exception and set aside orders to small-business NetCents-2 Products vendors, as long as they meet the requirements of FAR Part 19, which defines the eligibility for small-business participation in acquisitions.

Potential problems could stymie the contract. The lowest price, technically acceptable (LPTA) requirement puts major constraints on what companies can offer, and some vendors say there are compliant products from major manufacturers that might not be available under the delivery times the NetCents-2 Products contract requires. The question then is whether the Air Force is going to accept late deliveries or ease up on what it means by “technically acceptable.”

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out,” said a representative from one vendor, who didn’t want to be named. “There’ll be a lot of learning on both sides, and a lot of figuring out about who can be compliant and can handle the reporting requirements and everything else that goes with this, and what the Air Force itself can handle.”

NetCents-2 Products Vendors

  • Ace Technology Partners
  • Blue Tech Inc.
  • CDW Government
  • Counter Trade Products
  • Dell Federal Systems
  • FCN
  • Federal Network Systems
  • FedStore
  • Force 3
  • General Dynamics IT
  • Global Technology Resources
  • Harris IT Services
  • Immix Technology
  • Insight Public Sector
  • Intelligent Decisions
  • Integration Technologies Group
  • Iron Bow Technologies
  • M2 Technology
  • MicroTech
  • PC Mall Gov
  • Presidio Networked Solutions
  • Red River Computer
  • Sterling Computers
  • Unicom Government
  • World Wide Technology