Defense Dept. settles on rule for software buys

The Defense Acquisition Regulations Council published a final rule Oct. 25 requiring contracting officers to first review the defense inventory for commercial software and maintenance services before checking elsewhere.

The rule adds the Enterprise Software Initiative requirements to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement Subpart 208.74.

"The goal is to achieve significant savings to the taxpayer through lower prices and better use of software licenses," the council wrote in the rule.

The Defense ESI working group lobbied for the rule as a way to put some teeth in a two-year-old mandate that was widely overlooked. A July 2000 memorandum from the Defense CIO's office required contracting officers to consult ESI when buying commercial software and maintenance services, but the memo was often ignored.

The latest move by the council makes the measure part of the DFARS, the rules procurement officials must follow in purchasing for military agencies.

The rule requires defense contracting officers to first check the defense inventory for large software buys, said James Clausen, co-chairman of the group. The blanket purchasing agreements offer defense agencies discounts of as much as 90 percent off list prices for items such as communications software, database products, office automation and security tools.

If a contracting officer is not satisfied with the price or terms, or if the inventory does not have an enterprise agreement for a particular product, the officer can apply for a waiver to use another vehicle, officials said.

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