In 1981, the U.S. military was using a hodgepodge of communication equipment that largely didn't intercommunicate. Different services used different vendors, each with their own protocol, and equipment for voice communication was completely different from that for data, facsimile, or e-mail. lames Ambrose, then Undersecretary of the Army, thus initiated a $4.2 billion project to completely revamp the entire Army communications system, the largest communications program ever placed by the Army. His conception of the need included six unique acquisition guidelines that led to an extremely successful project:
1. The contractor is responsible for all aspects of systems acquisition, production, integration, fielding, training, logistics, and maintenance.
2. The contractor will satisfy 19 required design and functional features and as many of 82 desired features as possible.
3. The contractor will provide only fully developed, working equipment; there is to be virtually no engineering development.
4. Delivery of the system will start after 22 months and be completed 60 months after basic operations.
5. The contractor will buy every piece of equipment needed for each system, even if that equipment is already in use.
Source: A. A. Dettbarn, et al. "Excellence in Cost, Schedule and Quality Performance," PM Network, January 1992.
Depending on the new communications system during the Gulf War.
6. The contract is firm fixed price with the contractor accepting all cost risks.
In 1985, GTE won the bidding with a proposal $3 billion lower than the next competitor's. GTE has developed and refined their program management capabilities over a period of 35 years. A project team was assembled consisting of 32 subcontractors and 700 vendors to supply over 8000 mobile radios, 1400 telephone switching centers, and 25,000 telephones. This system can send and receive calls, electronic mail, data, and facsimiles to mobile units without interruption over an area of 37,500 square kilometers, even while the connective elements of the system are on the move. The system interconnects with the existing U.S. Army communications equipment as well as that of the other military services, NATO, and commercial satellite and landline telephone networks around the world. The system was tested in late 1985 for 10 slushy days during winter in eastern France. Mobile units crossed fields and roads, reconnecting be tween coverage areas, while switching centers jumped from location to location, just as would a regular Army corps during combat.
The final system met the requirement of 19 necessary features and 69 of the 82 desired features. The project also met the strict delivery deadlines and realized $21.7 million in cost savings as well. In 1991, the system was very successfully employed in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield/Storm. During the war period, the system operated for two straight weeks with only 45 minutes of downtime. It also was able to be set up and taken down in just the 30 minutes specified (completed in five minutes in one instance). It truly achieved the goal of "Effective communications from the foxhole to the theater commander to the President." This outstanding performance has been honored in four separate U.S. Army awards, including the DOD Value Engineering Contractor of the Year Award.
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