Business Grows Quickly After Cautious Start
The Defense Department’s focus on net-centric war fighting has sharpened over the past decade. Along the way, its IT contract vehicles have become more important as a way to focus technology on that goal. Network Centric Solutions-2 (NETCENTS-2) is a critical contract vehicle to help the Air Force acquire technology tailored to its specific mission needs.
It’s also a major component of the Air Force’s “Bending the Cost Curve” initiative, announced in January 2015. This intends to help the Air Force work more closely with industry to push for greater innovation in how it develops and uses technology, and arrive at a more strategic approach to how it manages spending on such things as IT.
The current goals of NETCENTS-2 can be charted from the beginning of its predecessor NETCENTS-1, which was initially a follow-up to the Unified Local Area Networking (ULANA II) contract. That contract ended in early 2003. Over time, it has evolved to encompass a more enterprise-wide solutions tilt, with a focus on IT standardization and network interoperability.
NETCENTS-2 is a sprawling, seven-year contract with a total ceiling of over $24 billion—double that of NETCENTS-1. It covers five different categories: NetCentric Products, Network Operations (NETOPS) & Infrastructure Solutions, Application Services, IT Professional Support/Engineering Services (ITPS), and Enterprise Integration & Services Management (EISM). Two of those categories—NETOPS and Application Services—have separate awards both for full and open competition and small-business only, while ITPS is a small business only vehicle.
There have been some delays getting the NETCENTS-2 program underway due to protests on some of the various contract awards. NetCentric Products, worth a total of $9.6 billion, was awarded in early November, 2010. It took until mid-May 2015 for the last category NETOPS to be awarded.
There was some ramp-up required because of this delayed start, says Amy Kosatka, Air Force program manager at CDW-G, one of the primes on NETCENTS-2. That’s par for the course when there’s a gap between the end of a previous contract (delivery on NETCENTS-1 orders was September 9, 2015) and the start of a new one. So there was a “big effort to get users educated about the contract,” she says. “But it didn’t take long. It was probably impactful for some of those who were new to the contract, but once people got the green light to start things up, it was just fine.”
CDW-G saw a 42 percent increase in business in its own products contract in FY 2016. Overall, the NETCENTS-2 Products IDIQ saw a 34 percent increase in task orders awarded for the year.
The lessons learned from NETCENTS-1 are seen as giving major advantages to NETCENTS-2. That first contract had a fairly complicated relationship between primes and contractors. That occasionally got in the way of the most efficient way of doing business. NETCENTS-2 enables a more direct working relationship.
NETCENTS-2 should also benefit from having separate vehicles just for small businesses. On NETCENTS-1, there were aggressive goals of a minimum of 20 percent of the contract dollars that had to go to small business, but that was as subcontractors to primes. Boosting small business participation overall is seen by the Air Force as a way to improve competition and innovation in technology procurement.