Air Force on verge of awarding streamlined NETCENTS-2

Service aims to increase agility and boost competition in long-awaited acquisition

After a string of contracting delays, the Air Force is poised to make good on its promise to complete the award of $24 billion in contracts for the much-anticipated Network Centric Solutions-2 (NETCENTS-2) in April, according to a top service official.

NETCENTS-2 is the second iteration of the Air Force’s network-centric acquisition program aimed at services and supplies, networking hardware and software, system development, integration and security.

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“Right now, we have five source selections that are underway simultaneously,” said Stephen Davis, chief of the Enterprise Systems Branch of the Air Force Program Executive Office-Enterprise Information Systems (AFPEO-EIS). “We’re projecting awards for those beginning in April, with the last one in September of this year.” Following those awards, there are plans for an additional competition for an advisory and assistance contract, but that is on hold due to resource constraints, he added.

The follow-on to NETCENTS has been plagued with contracting delays. The Air Force made initial NETCENTS-2 awards for advisory and assistance services (ANAS) in November 2010, more than a year after the service’s original program was set to expire but was extended to cover the gap.

Agile approach

Despite the delay, NETCENTS-2 stands to make Air Force contracting more agile, Davis said.

The original program had eight contracts working against a single, broad scope of requirements that gave the Air Force the opportunity to buy IT hardware, and acquire services for developing and managing networks and infrastructure, Davis said. “It also has some requirements for development of software applications associated with that other work on the contract,” he said.

“In NETCENTS-2, what we did was we took that scope set and we broke it down into separate contracts and then we added in more requirements for application development, and we added two ANAS efforts for both enterprise and project-level support,” Davis said. “What this is going to do is allow Air Force units to go directly to the best offers in each of these IT areas that we’ve got under the contracts.”

The strategy will allow greater focus in requirement categories, which could help reduce security vulnerabilities and help enhance reliability and maintainability, in addition to helping boost compliance with government and industry standards, he said. “That is a critical piece right there – we will put more attention in a focused sort of way on those things with the guidance that we provide over time and with the wording in the work statements,” Davis said.

Greater competition

There also are more opportunities for competition, especially for small businesses. Of the $24 billion award ceiling across all the contracts, at least $11 billion is earmarked for small businesses. “What this comes from, in part, is we saw in market research that there’s a lot of opportunity for small businesses to contribute to what the Air Force does in creating IT solutions and managing those solutions,” Davis said. There is also a 23 percent small-business subcontracting requirement for large businesses, he added.

Based on the response to the request for proposal, industry is ready. “We had a large number of offers. Despite that robust response that we got from them, what we’ve needed to do is still be very thorough in our evaluation so that we ensure that we are being fair to all of those offers. It takes time to do that and do that right,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of business that’s on the line for industry and we want to be sure to give them our full diligence in going through the evaluations. At the same time, there’s a lot that’s at stake for the Air Force that we want to be sure we get it right.”

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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