AF specifies requirements for Desktop III micros

Air Force Standard Systems Center

Brad Bass
Government Computer News

April 15, 1988

Officials at the Air Force Standard Systems Center (SSC) have issued a draft specification for a successor to the service's standard microcomputer, the Zenith Z-248.

Maj. James G. McConeghy, commander of the SSC's Small Computer Office, said the new contract would pick up where the Defense Department's standard micro contract with Zenith Data Systems leaves off. With the new contract, known as Desktop III, the Air Force hopes to exploit some of the gains made in microcomputer technology since the Z-248 contract was awarded early in 1986, he said. The Zenith contract expires in February.

Air Force officials issued the draft Desktop III specification with an April 22 deadline for vendors' comments. McConeghy estimated the request for proposals would be issued about mid-June.

Like the Zenith contract, Desktop III will be a requirements contract open to all Defense Department users but mandatory only to users in the Air Force and Defense Logistics Agency. Although a hard-and-fast value cannot be placed on requirements contracts, McConeghy said the contract could be worth more than $1 billion.

The past three years have seen improvements in processor speeds and operating system technology, he said. Although the Air Force did not specify a processor, vendors must offer machines based on processors with power at least equivalent to the Intel Corp. 80386, McConeghy said. "If somebody has a 68000 [computer] he wants to bid, that's up to him," he added.

In the area of operating systems, the specification said the proposed system must be Posix-compliant and provide migration capabilities for MS-DOS applications, McConeghy said. Vendors may propose proprietary operating systems as long as they offer those capabilities, he said.

The DOS migration requirement was included to ensure the 300,000 Z-248s that may be in use in DOD when Desktop III machines arrive will not become obsolete. "The applications developed on the Z-248 will not have to be redone," he said.

The Air Force also is asking the Desktop III vendor to provide as an option a C-2 level of security, as approved by the National Security Agency. McConeghy said some users might want to process classified data on the machines.

Air Force surveys indicated Defense Department users will need about 150,000 to 175,000 3f the new microcomputers, McConeghy said. But based on the results of other contracts, he estimated sales could be as high as 250,000 units. Including options, the average system would cost about $5,000, bringing the potential value of the contract up to $1.25 billion, he said.

The contract will span five years consisting of either a one- or two-year base period followed by four or three optional years, McConeghy said.

Personnel at SSC, operating out of Gunter Air Force Station, Ala., wrote the specifications and also will compete and manage the contract. It will be the first computer acquisition SSC has undertaken without the Air Force Computer Acquisition Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. "We have a full contracting office here [at SSC]," McConeghy said.

As for the Desktop III contract, he said, "We think we'll get the same kind of economies of scale that we got off the Z-248 contract."

COPYRIGHT 1988 Cahners Publishing Associates LP