Director view: Gregory Garcia, Director, 754th Electronic Systems Group, USAF
Air Force outlines fresh strategy for NetCents-2
Gregory Garcia is director of the 754th Electronic Systems Group at the Maxwell Air Force Base-Gunter Annex, Ala., which is responsible for the development, acquisition, operation and support of government and military information technology systems worth more than $15 billion. One of the most important vehicles managed by Garcia’s group is the Network Centric Solutions contract established in 2004. Awards through the program started slowly, but the contract picked up pace to become one of the most important sources of IT, networking and communications equipment and services in the military’s push toward a net-centric future. The original NetCents contract ends this year, having awarded more than $4.5 billion in task orders through eight prime contractors. Its replacement, NetCents-2, expands the scope of the first contract and is widely anticipated to be even more successful than its predecessor. Defense Systems contributing writer Brian Robinson spoke recently with Garcia about the strategy behind NetCents-2 and his expectations for the new contract. DS: The rethinking of NetCents that led to NetCents-2 began in the early years of the contract. Do you anticipate a similar midcourse adjustment for NetCents-2? Garcia
: The original NetCents contract has served the [Defense Department] quite well over its life. But like everything, we examined the existing construct with an eye to continuous process improvement, plus a look toward the ever-changing world of IT, and determined that we could make NetCents-2 even better.
The NetCents-2 contract strategy represents the next step in the evolution of the Air Force’s enterprisewide IT acquisition strategy. Lessons learned resulted in a strategy that will match the evolution of the Air Force’s vision about how to manage its IT portfolio in the face of rapidly changing network technologies and increased threats to the security of Air Force systems as well as address the concerns raised by some about the structure of the contracting vehicle.
After extensive market research in preparation for NetCents-2, information from industry resulted in a further refinement of the NetCents-2 business strategy.
Indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts will be awarded in six different and more focused functional areas –– products, network operations, application services, telephony, IT professional support and engineering services, and enterprise integration and management services — one of which will be set aside for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses. Two of the functional areas will also have separate companion contracts set aside for small businesses.
This approach was to align and delineate on the basis of understanding key competencies required for continued Air Force transformation. It also expanded access to the market leaders in each one of these areas.DS: NetCents-2 seems far more complex than the original NetCents contract, with potentially dozens of prime contractors competing for business. Why was it designed this way?Garcia
: This new structure will take a little while to get used to. The key is to provide our customers with highly competent, focused sources for the net-centric products and solutions needs.
What the Air Force has done is group requirements into logical categories based on the scope of the work to be performed. This doesn’t necessarily indicate more complexity but merely groups the scope of work to be performed. This should also promote more competition within specific categories while ultimately driving down prices.DS: What changes have you made to handle this complexity?Garcia
: I believe the team, joined with process and functional experts in the [Office of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, Air Force Materiel Command, and Electronic Systems Center], have done a fantastic job of planning for the resulting series of actions and post-award activities. The team is now drafting a robust NetCents-2 users' guide for each category, which will outline the scope of work to be performed, contractual processes and procedures, and any use or governance restrictions that may apply.
The addition of requirements categories and the increase in number of contracts will drive an increase in the size of the execution team. We have outlined a plan based on allocated resources plus the addition of target NetCents-2 organizational volunteers to resource the teams responsible for execution and post-award administration. We’ve also been working to add positions and personnel to fill any gaps we have identified.
Additionally, we are employing creative opportunities that exist within the personnel system, such as hiring Student Career Experience Program employees. Overall, we will execute in a fashion that balances required activities so that the collective team can complete with all the right due diligence.DS: The mix of services you offer through NetCents-2 has also expanded with things such as support for the Distributed Common Ground System and service-oriented architecture now being offered alongside other net-centric services. What demands will this make on the management of the contract, and how will you handle them?Garcia
: One of the new requirements categories, enterprise integration and service management, will provide support to the Air Force CIO and [major command] planners to specifically help them plan the development and management of IT throughout the Air Force. This will lead to a synergy amongst development and management activities [that] IT leaders have been seeking.DS: People seem to expect that task orders under the NetCents-2 will be more narrowly focused. Is this true? If so, why?Garcia
: Task orders will be aligned to the specific requirements categories of NetCents-2. This is a change from NetCents but, based on historical data, it should not require customers to have a more narrowly focused requirement/order.
Educating customers, streamlined ordering process, clear policy and guidance will all play a significant role to support decentralized ordering. We expect these factors will enable customers to more accurately select the contracts that best meet their needs, yet stay within the scope of the respective NetCents-2 contracts.DS: One of the primary objectives of NetCents-2 is to provide hardware and software tools to support the Air Force’s cyber mission. The debate over cyber warfare and what that will mean for IT resources seems to be shifting almost daily. How will NetCents-2 handle these evolving requirements?Garcia
: Performance work statements define the broad scope of requirements that meet Air Force needs throughout the life of the contract. Task orders will define specific requirements and offer the flexibility to modify requirements in order to accommodate any potential shifts or changes. An on-ramp strategy is also contemplated and will allow the Air Force to add contractors at specified points during the contract period of performance, if necessary, to accommodate changes in the market or new technologies.DS: The original NetCents contract was seen as particularly successful in meeting and exceeding small-business goals. What are the expectations for NetCents-2 in this regard, and how will you set about meeting these new goals?Garcia
: I strongly believe NetCents-2 will continue to be one of the best avenues to secure the great capabilities of small businesses. With two of the categories offering companion contracts that will be set aside for small businesses and another category that is totally set aside for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses, we expect that small businesses will continue to be major players. NetCents-2 is expected to meet and exceed the small-business goals as well.DS: The original NetCents contract was acclaimed for its ease of use. How do you expect that to be affected under NetCents-2? What have you done and what will you do to ensure that ease of use is retained?Garcia
: We will utilize a very similar process. We are doing such things as developing task-order templates, due-diligence checklists, outlining governance procedures, reference libraries, and continued online capabilities. Realizing the benefits of the existing NetCents solicitation Web application and additional desired capabilities, as well as those of the Air Force Way system, we are in the process of developing a more comprehensive system that will further streamline the acquisition, management and oversight processes.