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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

The mystery of DISA's redacted VMware document

Since writing about the protests that were filed about a DISA plan to create an $1.6 billion joint enterprise licensing agreement for VMware products, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the justification and approval documents that agencies file when they want to limit the competition for a particular contract.

One of the things that bothered me about the DISA document was how much of it was redacted. Huge blocks are in black.

One black area that stood out was the section that describes what the agency plans to do to remove or overcome the barrier to competition.

DISA completed that section, but the public version of the document is all black. I’ve now looked at several other J&A documents and I can’t figure out why DISA redacted this section.

In the J&A document for a contract extension for General Dynamics, the Coast Guard said it will conduct a full-and-open competition for the follow-on contract for the IT support contract.

In another, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it could find no other source but Global Imaging for advanced front end processors for one of its groups of satellites. But NOAA said it would continue to do research on manufacturers and products.

Granted the Coast Guard and NOAA are buying products and services that are very different from one another and very different from what DISA wants with VMware. The complaint of the protesters is that DISA's proposed JELA covers much more than VMware's server virtualization software when it is the dominant player across DOD and the rest of the government. The agreement would restrict competition and give VMware an advantage in other areas such as virtual storage and virtual desktops, sources told me.

By comparing the Coast Guard, NOAA and DISA justification documents, I know I might be doing an "apples to oranges to peaches" comparison, but it is important to look at what is traditionally in the competition section of justification documents.

The statements in the Coast Guard and NOAA documents aren’t grand, in depth plans for how they plan to take “actions to overcome barriers to competition” as the header in the documents state. In fact, they are pretty much boiler plate declarations.

The Coast Guard is planning a new competition. NOAA says it'll keep monitoring the market.

The bar for filling in that section seems pretty low, and yet DISA couldn’t clear it in a way that is open to public consumption.

What is in that section? It is hard to imagine that there is anything of a proprietary nature that could hurt VMware or put it at a competitive disadvantage.

Does DISA have some plan for creating more competition in the virtualization space once this $1.6 billion JELA expires in five years? If they do, they should share it because their document is trying to do the opposite –restrict competition.

It just makes no sense, and DISA and VMware aren’t talking; both have declined to comment.

We'll have to wait and see what comes out in the bid protest process at the Government Accountability Office. Of course, I'm still betting that DISA backtracks in the next couple weeks. But we'll see.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 25, 2015 at 9:30 AM

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