Army sets award date for unified capabilities

The Army is sticking to its word on a late 2016 request for proposals on unified capabilities.

The Army and Defense Department finally may be sticking to their word on the release of the unified capabilities request for proposal.

The much anticipated release of an RFP for the service’s replacement for its legacy communications circuits with an everything-over-IP infrastructure that can handle voice, video, chat and lots of other collaboration tools has been delayed multiple times in the past few years.

But Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems Chief Information Officer Manish Patel confirmed the RFP is still planned for release in the fourth quarter of 2016.

He also added another date for industry to look forward to. The contract will be awarded by the end of 2017.

“The Army wanted to do this sooner rather than later, so here we are; sooner is happening,” Patel said during a Sept. 1 AFCEA event in Vienna, Virginia. “[It’s] a large effort, a lot of time went into that one.”

The Defense Information Systems Agency first announced its push for unified capabilities in 2013.

The goal is to get rid of communications channels that aren’t integrated well, including many built primarily on a technology called time-division multiplexing that’s getting harder and more expensive to maintain. The voice and video communications traffic that rides on those legacy circuits will converge onto a single “self-healing” network infrastructure, with most DoD communications carried over Internet Protocol-based technology.

“We’ve been talking about everything-over-IP for years. Those services are here now,” said Cindy Moran, DISA’s then-director of network services. “We’re rolling them out to try to eliminate legacy. We need quality of service, we need to be able to guarantee and assure service the same way we did with [Time Division Multiplexing]. That’s really where we’re working with unified capabilities to go forward.”

Since then, the actual request for industry proposals has been kicked down the road multiple times.

In addition to the unified capabilities contract, Patel said the Army will announce its next big switch buy in late 2016 as well.

The buy is part of the Army CIO’s effort to build network capacity. Switchers allow multiple clients to connect into one network.

The switchers are part of the Army’s Installations Information Infrastructure Communications and Capabilities program (I3C2).

The program transforms network infrastructure and services for the Army’s Global Network Enterprise/LandWarNet and DoD’s Joint Information Environment.

“I3C2 is the primary program responsible for acquiring and delivering the generating force network capability required to ensure a single Army network from each post/camp/station to the tactical edge,” the program website states.

The Army is planning on awarding the contract in the first quarter of 2017.

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