DISA seeks to cut costs with new global network contract

GIG Services Management Operations will use standardized approach to deploy new network technologies

The Defense Information Systems Agency is closing in on awarding one of its large networking contracts, the Global Information Grid Services Management Operations. GSM-O bids for the program should be finalized by the end of September, according to the latest government estimates.

Awards for the full grid services management program total about $4.6 billion, with GSM-O taking the lion’s share of that money. The other two segments are the engineering, transition and implementation segments and projects and support segment, a small-business set-aside.

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The existing DISN Global Support contracts are held by a number of companies, including Science Applications International Corp., Northrop Grumman and Computer Sciences Corp. DGS uses a number of communication technologies, such as fiber optics, satellites, wireless links and various radio frequency systems.

The pending contract marks a shift from the existing DGS program. One aspect is a focus on systems that make it easy to adopt new technology as communications capabilities evolve rather than dictating technology in the contract.

Another modification focuses on the financial side. GSM-O is a fixed-price, performance-based program with incentives based on cost and performance parameters. That’s expected to trim costs compared to DGS, which didn’t have incentives.

“It’s my understanding that DISA is looking for transformational capability,” said DeEtte Gray, vice president of enterprise IT solutions at Lockheed Martin. “In moving to a performance-based contract, the contractor is asked to deliver a specific level of service at a given price versus providing a certain number of people. That puts a lot of risk on the contractor.”

This approach, which is already fairly common with many smaller government contracts, is now seeing more use in larger contracts. Lockheed Martin, one of the bidders, manages billions of IT performance-based contracts at the Defense Department, Gray noted.

Saving money is only one aspect of the multibillion-dollar contract. DISA’s foremost goal is to improve provisioning, network operations, network assurance and network maintenance. GIG forms the basis of DOD’s communications plans, carrying most of the department's communications and data.

One of DISA’s goals is to make more data available worldwide in real time, with a major focus on security. That includes a range of new technologies that will let warfighters use emerging technologies, such as tablets and smart phones.

This portable gear, along with a broad range of other hardware, will communicate via a range of systems that will include cellular links, satellite communications and wired connections. DISA is working to ensure that warfighters have access to a large amount of data regardless of where they are. The system will determine which communications technology provides the most effective and least costly communications path.

The winning contractor is being asked to make extensive use of standardized technologies used in industry. That will help the military deploy new technologies quickly to stay ahead of enemies.

Automated systems will be one key for both rapid responses and cost savings. The existing system requires manual attention for many steps, such as establishing new links. That slows processes while driving up costs.

“Automating and standardizing processes will provide fast delivery of information to the warfighter while still improving overall service delivery,” Gray said. “Any time you can introduce efficiencies or technology to augment the staff and improve upon manual processes, you can better operate your IT infrastructure and save a great deal of money.”

She noted that when new connections are requested, which happens often given the size of GIG, automated processes will help ensure that services come online quickly. Another benefit of automated processes that take advantage of state-of-the-art IT tools is that when network issues arise, they can often be resolved before the networks go down.

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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