Army mandates make CHESS contract of choice for IT purchases

Army units instructed to turn to CHESS for IT buys

Several regulatory and standards drivers have helped the Army’s Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions program become a leading contracting vehicle for federal IT purchases, especially at the Defense Department.

Under the authority of the Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement Revision 25, published in April 2010:

  • CHESS is the mandatory source for commercial IT purchases. "Purchasers of commercial hardware and software must satisfy their IT requirements by utilizing CHESS contracts and DOD Enterprise Software Agreements first regardless of dollar value. Any purchase made outside of CHESS contracts requires a waiver.”
  • For IT services, purchasers should consider small-business set-asides. “If no small-business capability exists, CHESS contract vehicles are the preferred source for acquisition of IT.… [A waiver is] not required for IT services.  However, if IT hardware and software are required as part of a non-CHESS IT services contract, a waiver for the hardware and software is required.”

Meanwhile, other Army IT management regulations assert CHESS' status:

  • CHESS is the primary source for purchases of COTS software, desktops and notebook computers regardless of dollar value.
  • As a primary source, purchasers must get a CHESS waiver to buy from other sources.

Those regulations apply to the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve unless otherwise stated. It applies to IT contained in both business systems and national security systems, except as noted, developed for or purchased by the Army Department. This regulation also applies to IT contained in command and control systems, intelligence systems, except as noted, business systems, and when identified, national security systems developed or purchased by the Army Department.

An Army CIO policy memo from May 2009 further backs CHESS as the definitive source for Army IT purchases. "Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS) is the primary source for procuring commercial information technology (IT) hardware and software," the memo states. This policy memo reinforces the existing policy to use CHESS for desktop and laptop PCs and videoconferencing, and it expanded the contract’s use to other COTS IT, including routers, servers and printers. It also added security and interoperability requirements to CHESS.

Additional CHESS standards

A chief contract requirement for CHESS is compliance with DOD, Army and Network Enterprise Technology Command standards, including:

  • NETCOM Army Enterprise Desktop Standardization.
  • Army Golden Master (Federal Desktop Core Configuration).
  • Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool.
  • DOD IT Standards and Profile Registry.
  • Information assurance (AR 25-2/OIA&C Approved Products List).
  • IP Version 6.
  • Networthiness.
  • Section 508.
  • Smart-card reader.
  • Trusted Platform Module.
  • Wireless networking.
  • UID, radio frequency ID, and NETCOM Technical Authority.
  • Hardware requirement for FIPS 140-2 Certified Mode in support of 802.11 wireless connections.

Army/DOD Unified Capabilities Approved Products List

Effective October 2010, the Army implemented the DOD Unified Capabilities Approved Products List. With the purpose to maintain a single consolidated list of products that have completed Interoperability and Information Assurance certification, use of the approved products list allows Army and DOD organizations to purchase and operate UC systems on DOD network infrastructures.

For specifications regarding the use of the approved products list, please refer to the Unified Capabilities Requirements from 2008, Change 2. Products approved for use on DOD networks are available at

The CHESS contracts designated for approved products list item acquisitions are under the IT Enterprise Solutions-2 Hardware program. The approved products list items should be acquired by soliciting proposals from ITES-2H contractors.

About this Report

This special report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]