CHESS: A New Name, Continuing A Mighty Mission


Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS) has the mission to support all Army customers’ commercial IT requirements – quickly and economically. Visit them at: https://ascp.monmouth.army.mil.

 

What a difference a year makes.

 

Last year, the popular ADMC-2 and ITES-2H & 2S IDIQs were the flagships of the very successful Army Small Computing Program (ASCP).

 

The ongoing success of the contracts was rewarded when this year the Army gave the program a new name – Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS).

 

Leading the CHESS team is program manager Micki LaForgia. “I have a lot to say about this program,” LaForgia told 1105 Custom Media in a recent interview.

 

“It is important to get the word out to the Army on what this program has been doing and can continue to do,” in fulfilling its mission of supporting all Army customers’ commercial IT requirements quickly and economically.

 

Name Change That Reflects Program Growth
LaForgia is proud that CHESS customers think the program is doing a lot of things right!  “However, a lot has changed since 1990 when we were indeed the Army’s SMALL Computer Program (ASCP) and not widely known or used,” explained LaForgia.



CHESS is the new name for the Army Small Computing Program (ASCP). It is the Army’s Commercial Center of Excellence and “Primary Source” for Information Technology (IT) products and services.


Sales reached only about $250 million in 1987.  In 2002 sales grew to about $650 million and in 2007 over $1.5 billion, with Cost Avoidance/Savings to the Army in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  ‘Small’ is no longer an appropriate descriptor said LaForgia.

Most customers knew that ASCP provided the latest computers, at the lowest prices and with the best Army standardization suite of software.  But CHESS is also the Army’s Software Product Manager (SPM) representing all COTS software actions as part of the DoD Enterprise Software Initiative. 

CHESS’ cost avoidance on enterprise software agreements was $530 million in FY07.  Customers, who may not have made the link between “Small Computers” and multi-million dollar software programs, now reach
out to CHESS.

Finally according to LaForgia, ITES contracts for services (2S) and high-end server hardware, including Information Assurance (IA) products (2H), valued at over $25 billion, were not always associated with ASCP.  “‘CHESS’ let’s customers know that we’re a full-service enterprise IT provider.”

“With the endorsement of the Army’s Business Initiative Council, the full support of the Army’s CIO/G-6 office and the Army Acquisition Executive at ASA (ALT), CHESS became the Army’s “Primary Source” for commercial Information Technology,” explained LaForgia. 

First Shot
That designation, incorporated into Army Regulation 25-1, “Army Knowledge Management and Information Technology,” requires all Army COTS IT customers to give CHESS the “first shot” at meeting their requirements.  Waivers are granted when the customers’ requirements cannot be met through CHESS contracts; and for the rare occasions when a customer can obtain the same item at a better price from another source, such as when it’s part of an overarching agreement.  

 

“We support all components of the Army – the sustaining base, the strategic planners, the power projectors and the Warfighters. Everything was “alright” with ASCP, but CHESS supports the Army Enterprise and needed a name that reflects that mission,” said LaForgia. 

 

The CHESS program leverages the latest technology advances while making sure those products are compliant with current commercial, DoD and Army policy and standards.  This is accomplished through the superb teaming relationship between CHESS and its contract holders. 

 

Through periodic meetings, vendors share their insight and plans for new product developments and CHESS implements those changes by offering a wide range of state-of-the-art IT products at extremely competitive prices and yet compliant with Army requirements.  These include such advancements as the Federal Desktop Core Configuration, IPv6, and “greening” criteria contained in recent Executive Orders and measured by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). This team arrangement has allowed CHESS to provide Army users with virtually automatic compliance with Army IT policy and standards. 

 

Growing ESI with CHESS
Another area that is growing for CHESS is the Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI). The ESI was created in late 1990s when someone at DOD realized that if you put all the DOD services together, the Department had some big buying power and that should be leveraged. Thus the ESI was developed. It was so successful in the agreements that it put together that OMB asked that these agreements be made available to civilian agencies.  Many became SmartBUYs and if an agreement has that designation, it is mandatory for all federal agencies to buy through that initiative.

 

“They keep identifying new products they want to convert to SmartBUY,” said LaForgia. “The G6 designated this program back in the early 2000s and little by little it has been growing and now it is phenomenal.”

 

CHESS is the SPM for the newly awarded ESI agreements for asset management software licenses, maintenance, and services with awards to five companies.  Four of them have been designated as GSA SmartBUY Agreements and are open for ordering by all Federal Government agencies according to LaForgia.

 

Some reasons for using ESI agreements are you get favorable terms and conditions that maximize license value and cost avoidance; a reduction of acquisition and contract administration costs for duplicative contracts; a reduction of software company bid and proposal costs (translates into savings); expert advice available to customers (i.e., Ordering Guide, individual advice/assistance from SPMs) at no additional cost and throughout the requirements and acquisition cycle; and finally avoidance of duplicate license purchases by sharing historical information on individual agency purchases (SPMs can provide asset management data and reports).

 

With ADMC, ITES and ESI, CHESS has outgrown its ASCP days.

 

“When we went through the name change, there was a concern,” said LaForgia, “because we were so well known as ASCP.”

 

“But I think at this point our reputation as being the premier provider of the top, state-of-the-art equipment and especially with the enhanced security features and the prices we are providing is well known,” said LaForgia.

 

“People are looking for us even if they didn’t know we became CHESS.” You can find them at https://ascp.monmouth.army.mil.

Save Even More On Desktops and Notebooks
Through September 30!


The CHESS Consolidated Buy (CB) for Desktops and Notebooks is now going on through September 30, 2008.  Start saving at:
https://ascp.monmouth.army.mil.

The Army’s Consolidated Buy provides a temporary additional discount for desktops and notebooks off of CHESS’ already discounted ADMC-2 contract prices.  

So far, the response to this year’s CB has been phenomenal according to CHESS PM Micki LaForgia.

LaForgia explained that normal volume on the website is about 200 concurrent users and “we were having 700 to 800 concurrent hits and we think it’s because the CB opened.”

“That’s great news,” said LaForgia. “The word is getting out there. People are waiting for the buy to open to buy their IT and that’s terrific.”

LaForgia is looking to top last year’s end of year CB when 130,000 units were sold. “This year people were just waiting. One of our vendors told me they had a thousand phone calls yesterday about the CB. So it is definitely taking off,” said LaForgia.

The objective of the CB is to reduce Army costs for desktops and notebooks and standardize the information technology enterprise.  CB configurations are based upon the specifications contained in the NETCOM Army Enterprise Desktop Standardization.  All products offered are in compliance with DOD, Army and NETCOM standards.  Two desktop, two notebook and two monitor categories are offered.  New for CB7 is a rugged/semi-rugged category.  Hardware categories consist of:

Small Form Factor – A platform targeted for typical office automation skills such as word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, or presentation slide development.  Platform intended for well defined missions with a low risk of expansion throughout the platform’s lifecycle.

Mini-Tower – A platform targeted for office automation with higher performance requirements such as database operations, analytical analysis, programming, basic engineering functions, etc.  Platform intended to provide expansion capabilities (more memory, storage, or expansion cards) to address changing mission needs over the platform’s lifecycle.

Mainstream Notebook – A desktop replacement platform targeted to provide office automation functions such as word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, or presentation slide development.  Processor provides adequate performance for office automation, incorporates docking station or port replicator to facilitate mobility but general size and weight may limit
heavy travel use.

Specialty Notebook – A platform targeted at a wide range of missions from small light weight road warrior platforms to large processor intensive platforms.  This wide range of performance requires trade-off analysis between processing power, size/weight, and battery life.

Ruggedized Notebook – A platform targeted for missions where users encounter harsh environmental conditions.  This category encompasses a wide range of environmental performance thresholds and requires trade-off analysis between processing power, size/weight, environmental characteristics and battery life to determine what best meets the user’s needs.

Army customers can view the CB products on the CHESS website, the “it e-mart”.  A web-based tool allows customers to easily compare the CB offerings from various vendors in order to make their award determination.

According to LaForgia, the CB has been extremely successful with Army customers.  They appreciate the ease of ordering and the deep discounts (up to 49%) available. 

“No Army user is left out of sharing in savings that usually accrue to only the larger volume buyers.  CHESS’ twice per year Consolidated Buy does just that,” explained LaForgia. “It consolidates the Army’s total requirements, gets exceptional pricing from its Prime Vendors, and allows the buyer of one system to save as much, on a pro-rated basis, as the buyer of 1,000 systems.”

Source: CHESS