NETCENTS-2: THE ROAD AHEAD

Since its first incarnation in 2004, the Air Force NETCENTS contract vehicle has evolved and changed into what it is today. It is now a seven-year ID/IQ contract providing applications, network-centric products and network infrastructure and operations solutions to the Air Force and other federal agencies.

The first NETCENTS contract, which was in effect from about 2004 to 2013, had just eight vendors. At the time, it was optional for the Air Force. During its lifetime, it provided more than $10 billion worth of network-centric products and services to federal agencies.

Before working on the follow-up NETCENTS-2 contract, Air Force officials and contracting officers took to heart the results of an Air Force Inspectors General Audit. This audit found the contract wasn’t fully living up to its promise of lower costs and other benefits. It was focused too heavily on single integrator solutions.

As NETCENTS-2 moves forward, it will undoubtedly continue to evolve to meet changing Air Force requirements and shifts in technological development.

At the same time, Air Force officials wanted to ensure NETCENTS-2 more strongly supported small businesses. They wanted to provide a more targeted approach for specific capabilities in the areas of NetOps and services. The idea was to make NETCENTS faster and more efficient for customers.

“While we are certainly still concerned with lower cost and faster acquisitions, I would say we are much more focused in both areas,” says Air Force Enterprise Services Branch Chief Robert Smothers. “We have moved from strategic sourcing to commodity buying and focusing on capturing ‘big data’ to help our leadership make efficiency decisions about inventory, refresh rates, and providing ‘should cost’ information.”

As a result, NETCENTS-2 debuted in FY2013 with solutions separated into categories, based on the scope of work to be performed. The seven-year ID/IQ contract manages 100 separate contracts and 77 vendors. Unlike the original NETCENTS contract, NETCENTS-2 is mandatory for the Air Force. By enforcing a mandatory use policy, the Air Force hopes to better manage IT requirements at the enterprise level, enforce network standardization, and ensure future advances are interoperable.

NETCENTS-2 initially consisted of five categories: Application Services, Enterprise Information and Service Management (EISM), IT Professional Support and Engineering Services, Net-Centric Products and Network Operations and Infrastructure. The reason for breaking NETCENTS-2 into different contracts was to allow for greater granularity. It also helped reduce the risk of building single integrator solutions. The categories were determined through market research and industry feedback. They’re expected to promote competition within the specific categories to help drive down prices.

As NETCENTS-2 progressed, it became increasingly clear the contract should only focus on three of those five categories: Application Services, Net-Centric Products and Network Operations and Infrastructure. ITPS was discontinued early in the contract lifecycle and EISM has been transitioned to OASIS. These are good moves, says Smothers, because it leaves the most network-centric categories in the contract.

As NETCENTS-2 moves forward, it will undoubtedly continue to evolve to meet changing Air Force requirements and shifts in technological development. As for what comes after NETCENTS-2, Smothers says research is already underway. The results will be announced by the PEO for Business and Enterprise Services when the time is right.