DISA Needs VARs To Speed Up Processes

One way for VARs to land work with the Department of Defense (DoD) is to get with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) -- the combat-support agency that provides global net-centric solutions for national defense. Those able to help the agency decrease the time to delivery will be first at the table, said the DISA chief information officer (CIO) at an executive breakfast.

DISA is an interesting entity. It essentially acts as overseer of many of the IT initiatives that defense contractors want to get in on, from enterprisewide computing and communications support, to a global defense network, interoperability, and much more, said John Garing, CIO and director for strategic planning at DISA. Beyond that, DISA counts more than the DoD as customers -- including the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Energy, the United States Coast Guard and the White House Communications Agency.

Given that, DISA is far more IT-literate than a typical federal agency; nearly 60 percent of its civilian workforce -- roughly 4,800 employees -- fall into the category of engineering and IT.

"Those that want to work with DISA need to be sensitized that this is a very savvy customer," said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at McLean, Va.-based FedSources, the government IT market intelligence firm that sponsored the breakfast.

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That said, DISA doesn't take on its initiatives without some help from the private sector. The DISA Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization reported that the National Capital Region (NCR) -- which serves the internal needs of DISA -- reported $301.2 million in contract obligations to date in 2005. The bulk of those obligations involve general computing services.

So, where does the private fit moving forward? For now, any contractor that can help improve efficiency associated with agency initiatives will have the advantage.

"The process [of procurement and execution] can take a year and a half; we can't have that," Garing said. "We're going to adopt before we buy, and buy before we build."

In other words, DISA's new approach will seek out the quickest means to an end -- first through services that can leverage what's already in place, then through new offerings that get the job done, and lastly through the development of solutions from scratch.

That will be the modus operandi leading initiatives to develop a financial system for billing and accounting, enhance telecom and security solutions, expand data centers and further integrate the Network-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program.

"DISA is evaluating how they work, and if the private sector can understand that and help the agency work better and faster, they will be taken on," Garing said. "There are a couple of people out there that made a point to know us as well as we know ourselves, and to know our customers; that's how you get to DISA. Of course, you also need a contract."