PricewaterhouseCoopers Wins $453 Million Army E-Learning Contract

PricewaterhouseCoopers Wins $453 Million Army E-Learning Contract

The Army today awarded a five-year, $453 million contract to PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide distance education for about 80,000 soldiers via the Internet.

New York-based PWC teamed with more than a dozen technology providers and 29 higher education institutions to create Army University Access Online. The Web portal will open in mid-January to soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas, and expand around the globe.

It will be the world's largest education portal, an Army spokesman said.

"We envision a program that will be available to soldiers any time and anywhere, " said Army Secretary Louis Caldera, who made the announcement this morning at the National Press Club in Washington. "We believe this will help not only in recruiting but also in retention, because soldiers will not have to leave [the service] to get the education they want. ? It also provides for the better educated soldiers we need in the 21st century."

The Army estimates that up to 15,000 soldiers will participate in the program in 2001. Enrollees will be given laptop computers, printers, Internet access, e-mail accounts, help-desk assistance and academic counseling. The soldiers will be able to earn certificates and associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees at no cost to them. About 1,500 courses will be available when the portal opens.

"The way to improve educational access for young people is through the use of this technology. We're extremely proud of this [contract win]," said James Shiro, PWC chief executive officer.

The road to ? the future home of the education portal ? was paved in just five months, as the Army took the unusual approach of requiring bidders to create the portal as they pursued the contract.

Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, Calif., Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., also bid on the contract.

Like the other bidders, PWC built upon its experience in distance learning to create the Army portal. But the Army initiative, with its capacity to reach soldiers worldwide, is perhaps the most extensive e-learning initiative ever undertaken.

"We've never done this before," said partner Jill Kidwell, head of the company's higher education practice.

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