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Vern Edwards

What's the biggest DOD contract?

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The following is from a Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) email update dated today:



If people were asked to guess the U.S. military's biggest contract, some common responses might be the Abrams tank, the Ford-class aircraft carrier, or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. They'd be wrong.

By about a $9 billion margin, the contract the Defense Department has spent the most money on in recent years is SeaPort Enhanced, or SeaPort-e. Since its 2004 inception, the Pentagon has spent more than $50 billion on this massive Navy contract for professional services. That's more than weapons systems such as the F-35, jet fuel, or mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles.

Unlike many of the more well-known Pentagon billion-dollar contracts, which deliver big pieces of hardware, SeaPort-e delivers a variety of technical support services, primarily to the Navy. About $2.3 billion has been paid by other parts of DOD for work under this contract. The Navy uses the contract to cover "22 functional areas including Engineering, Financial Management, and Program Management."


Our biggest practitioner challenge is the acquisition of services, not systems. We know what we ought to be doing when we buy systems (F-35, USS Ford, various IT systems), we just can't make ourselves do it. But we don't know much about services requirements analysis, specification, cost estimation, and quality assurance. Who knows what we really wanted, and what we've really gotten, from support services contracts?

Buying major systems can be fun, but there's little new under the sun besides the systems themselves. If you're looking for a challenge, start thinking about how we buy, and how we ought to buy, support services.


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Wow, I didn't see that coming! But as a former user of SeaPort-e, it makes total sense.

I was discussing with a colleague the value of the data that SeaPort captures, if the government was ever able to aggregate it properly.

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