WASHINGTON — After Hurricane Michael ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base in October, airmen took on an unusual mission: recovering the servers base officials used to write, release and award contracts.
Reclaiming those servers — which contain data and contract vehicles used by Tyndall’s two contracting squadrons to order everything for the base from supplies for the base to spare parts for aircraft — was a relatively minor victory when compared to the larger devastation faced by the installation.
But the mission was an important one in that it allowed remaining base personnel to manage contracts in the wake of the disaster, Air Force officials told Defense News.
“Obviously, the base is devastated … but it’s clear that there were open, existing contracts whether that was for simple things like cutting the lawn or delivering food to the chow hall on base,” said Richard Aldridge, the Air Force’s program executive officer for business and enterprise systems. “Someone has got to either terminate them, or put them on pause or make sure vendors are getting paid for work that they had already done before the contract.”
In the days after the hurricane, airmen from Gunter Annex in Alabama worked with the state’s civil air patrol to fly into the Florida panhandle, obtain Tyndall’s servers and transport them back to Maxwell Air Force Base, where Gunter is located.
Then, the service transferred data from the legacy contract writing system into a new cloud-based system called CON-IT, short for Contracting Information Technology.
The servers from Tyndall weren’t necessary for base officials to use CON-IT, said Mike Allen, the Air Force’s CON-IT program manager. But without them, contract officers would be left with no digital record of past contracts, and would be forced to draw up new contracts for mundane goods and services that would normally be bought through indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts that allow for multiple orders.
"We were then able to migrate [the data from the servers] into CON-IT so that existing [indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contracts] or ordering vehicles were available to them, and all of their existing contracts would be available to work with,” said Allen. “They weren’t starting from a blank piece of paper.”
And moving to a cloud-based environment means that Tyndall’s contracting data will no longer be vulnerable to future disasters, Aldridge added.
“It’s ubiquitous; it doesn’t matter where you are, you can access it,” he said.
Allen and Aldridge said the program office was able to transition Tyndall’s data and train users on the new system, but were unable to provide details on how Tyndall’s contracting officers had since used the new system.
The plan is to move all of the Air Force’s current contract data from existing legacy systems to CON-IT by the end of 2019. The system, built by and originally developed by Appian for use by the Defense Information Systems Agency, has deployed to 1,100 users in 30 locations so far, Allen said.
CON-IT will replace three legacy systems: the standard procurement system that supports operational users; ConWrite, which supports the weapon system acquisition and research and development; and the automated contract preparation system for logistics contracts.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.