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Was GIG-BE Process Flawed?Was GIG-BE Process Flawed?

Legislators are questioning whether DISA's selection process had sufficient government involvement

September 30, 2003

3 Min Read
Was GIG-BE Process Flawed?

A handful of government personnel are objecting to the process by which the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has procured fiber and equipment for its Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) project, which recently entered a new phase (see GIG-BE Winners Named).

Representatives Martin T. "Marty" Meehan (D-Mass.) and James "Jim" Saxton (R-N.J.) say they're concerned that DISA's use of a contractor, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), to handle the selection process has been "irresponsible."

According to Meehan spokesperson Kimberly "Kimberly" Abbott, Meehan believes the "whole bidding process wasn't as fair and open as it could have been," because a contractor, not the government itself, was in control. Meehan isn't, she says, questioning the competence of SAIC.

Reports of the congressmen's objections surfaced in the Lowell, Mass., Sun newspaper last week, but they go back to August 12, when Saxton, who chairs the subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities for the House Armed Services Committee, and Meehan, who serves on Saxton's subcommittee, penned their objections to John P. Stenbit, assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Stenbit's in charge of the GIG-BE process, holding the august title of "GIG-BE Milestone Decision Authority."

In their letter to Stenbit, the two congressmen claimed "dismay" over DISA's allocation of the procurement process for GIG-BE to non-DOD contractors. They cited the need for GIG-BE to be "designed to the most exacting standards, carefully tested in rigorous stress conditions, and the procurement overseen by knowledgeable and engaged DOD officials." None of that occurred, they stated.

Abbott says Meehan and Saxton's letter was undertaken on behalf of all members of their subcommittee.

Stenbit responded on August 26 that he felt the GIG-BE procurement process had been done in accordance with "all applicable DoD and Federal acquisition laws" and with full involvement of government officials, including himself, at all junctures. Multiple tests of chosen IP and ATM technologies are planned and on schedule, he indicated.

Abbott says Meehan and Saxton are considering their next move. Betsy Flood, a spokesperson for DISA, says the agency supported Stenbit's response to the congressmen.

But at least one analyst thinks it's not likely the GIG-BE process will halt or unravel. "Everybody thinks SAIC did a fantastic job," says Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects, a telecom consultancy based in Washington. In his view, it's possible that vendors who either didn't get as much of the contract as they wanted, or else were left out entirely, have turned to various legislators for support. It's a case of sour grapes, he says.

There are indications that some vendors turned to representatives for help, particularly since they weren't told why they hadn't been chosen at one juncture or another. In a letter addressed to the CEO of SAIC that cc'd Stenbit on August 7, Representative John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) asked that SAIC "revisit" its decision not to include Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) in its "bake-off" of chosen products.

"I am informed that there was significant strength shown on the face of Lucent's proposal, and thus am puzzled by SAIC's decision," Tierney states in the letter. He also indicates that leaving out Lucent "has left parties in need of clarification of the process, which could, should the decision stand, have an outward appearance of being arbitrary and driven by unknown factors."

SAIC did not immediately respond to inquiries about the matter. A Lucent spokesperson said the company declined to comment.

At Meehan's office, Kimberly Abbott says Meehan's objections weren't made with any vendors in mind, since both winners and losers have offices in his district, which covers Lowell, Boxborough, Chelmsford, and other Massachusetts locations known for hosting technology firms.

Back at DISA, Flood has news that may come as some consolation: She says vendors will be debriefed about why they were or weren't chosen "after the hardware selection process is concluded in December."

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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