DEIS blossoms on timing and leadership

Early multiple-award contract was in the right place at the right time

A convergence of factors helped make the Defense Enterprise Integration Services (DEIS) contract a groundbreaking vehicle.

First, the Defense Information Systems Agency, which issued the contract, was going through a transformation, said Mary Sloper, DEIS’ program manager.

“There was a lot of consolidation going on, so it fit DISA’s mission,” she said.

Second, it was 1993, and the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act had just become law, initiating new regulations that gave procurement shops more flexibility.

And third was leadership, namely Michael Mestrovich, who was DISA's deputy director of enterprise integration.

“He was a very innovative guy," Sloper said. "One of the best bosses I had. He let you do your job and was always very supportive.”

With those three factors in place, Mestrovich’s team was able to answer a “mission with an acquisition,” Sloper said.

After DISA awarded the contract to BDM International, Boeing, Computer Sciences Corp., EDS and Martin Marietta in 1993, the contract quickly ran through its $1 billion ceiling in just two years. Then DISA launched DEIS II in 1996 with a $3 billion ceiling.

“It came at a really good time,” Sloper said.

The contract was one of the first to take advantage of procurement rules that allowed awards to multiple contractors who would then compete for task orders.

“It really cut down on the administrative paperwork and the long lead time,” Sloper said. “Before, there was a separate request for proposals for every requirement.”

Meanwhile, it was new territory for contractors and government.

“One of the good things we did was we held executive meetings with all five contractors to share ideas and share ways of marketing the contract,” Sloper said. “It was an interesting environment because they were all competitors, but they also were kind of in this thing together.”

Mestrovich’s leadership was critical in creating this kind of collaboration — collaboration that today is taken for granted. As a member of the Senior Executive Service, Mestrovich could pick up the phone and get things done, Sloper said.

“Nowadays, the whole thing is about working closer with industry, but at the time, it was more of an arms-length approach,” she said.

Now, DEIS' legacy lives on in multiple ways. For example, the Encore contracts evolved from DEIS II.

“It is a good way to do contracting because it has a good element of competition,” she said.

Sloper said she runs across the same guidelines that she and her teammates wrote more than 16 years ago in current multiple-award contracts, such as the Homeland Security Department’s Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions contract and the Army’s Information Technology Enterprise Solutions contract.

“It is funny to see those same guidelines 16 years later,” she said. Sloper is retired from government but still consults part time with agencies.

“It was one of the best jobs I ever had,” she said. “It came at a time when you could do some interesting things. There was new legislation and agencies were able to take it and do some creative things.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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