A new cloud-based contract management system being rolled out by the Air Force enabled Tyndall Air Force Base officers to continue their work even as Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida base last month.
In 2016, the service announced plans to consolidate several legacy contract writing systems into a single platform known as Contracting Information Technology, or CON-IT, said Mike Allen, the system’s program manager in a media call Nov. 1. Under the previous model, officers could only access award information and related data while on site at one of the service’s 140-plus bases that house contracting squadrons, he noted.
“Under the modernized systems, it’s in the cloud. … It doesn’t matter where you are, you could access it,” he said. “But under the old system, you could only access it at the base.”
In October, the system’s integrated program office was able to pull in data from Tyndall’s two contracting squadrons’ accounts, activate them in the new system, and quickly train the officers to enable them to continue their jobs even as the base was evacuated and suffered immense damage from Hurricane Michael, Allen said.
The Alabama Civil Air Patrol helped pick up and fly servers to Maxwell Air Force Base to load Tyndall’s contract data into CON-IT, he added. Without the ability to upload the data into CON-IT, the Air Force may have had to transport enormous amounts of hard files to the base and then manually update them into the system, which would have required significantly higher resources, he noted.
“Those servers aren’t necessary for them to use the CON-IT system, however the value that that provides is … the data,” Allen said. Officers would not have had access to previously awarded contract details, or indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity files, he noted.
The details of how much this rapid access to CON-IT may have affected Tyndall’s business requirements and scheduling are yet unknown, but the Air Force has already saved 23 months and $85 million in developmental work from leveraging technology originally built for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to build the system, said Rich Aldridge, Program Executive Officer for Business and Enterprise Systems and Director of the Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate at the Gunter Annex at Maxwell. CON-IT is being developed as part of the directorate’s “agile pilot program,” according to the Air Force.
In 2016, the service began exploring options to replace its aging contract writing systems and discovered that DISA was fielding a capability, developed by Appian Corp., that met many of their requirements and was flexible enough to include any other specific needs, he said. The Air Force awarded Appian a $21 million contract that year for the program, and partnered with the Department of Agriculture to reduce development costs, Allen said. By early 2018, the first contracts were being awarded using that software, he added.
The system is currently in use for users who employed the legacy standard procurement system, and soon the platforms that support the weapons system community, R&D, grant-writing and logistics contracting officers will also be consolidated, Allen said. As of this week, CON-IT is deployed by over 1,100 users at 30 locations worldwide and by the end of December 2019, it will be available to over 4,500 operational contracting users.