DHS moving its buying power online

WASHINGTON (02/06/2004) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Friday announced that it has reached an agreement with the Pentagon to develop a tailored version of the U.S. Defense Department's electronic mall to streamline the purchase of goods and services.

Established in 1998, the Pentagon's EMall is an online, one-stop shopping center for the military services. The Defense Logistics Agency manages the EMall on behalf of the Defense Department.

"Partnering with DOD to leverage its resources and buying power makes good business sense," said Janet Hale, DHS undersecretary for management. "The powerful EMall portal will significantly aid DHS's quest for an efficient means to strategically acquire the goods and services it needs."

The strategic partnership with the Pentagon will enable the DHS to participate in one of the largest government-to-business exchanges online. Through the EMall, DHS agencies will have access to 383 commercial catalogs containing more than 12 million items and a total of 5.5 million national stock numbers from Defense Supply Centers and the General Services Administration.

The agreement makes the DHS the first nondefense agency to use EMall on an enterprisewide basis.

The DHS's use of the Pentagon EMall will enable its constituent agencies to buy goods and services offered through existing Defense Department contracts as well as contracts established exclusively for use by the DHS. In a statement, the department said it is currently evaluating several commodities that it plans to strategically source.

Greg Rothwell, chief procurement officer at the DHS, said the EMall is "an optimal means of ordering goods and services, because the contracts are managed centrally and DHS's ordering is decentralized, providing a single electronic point of entry to search for, order and acquire order status on goods and services for DHS's contracts."

While Pentagon officials can point to the EMall as a success story, it hasn't always been a smooth ride for the military's cadre of online shoppers. The Pentagon's decision to move forward with the effort in 1998 came under fire from the department's own inspector general for a laundry list of what the inspector general considered to be potential roadblocks to success.

In a report, the inspector general identified multiple problems with the system, including a lack of integration with legacy systems, duplication of General Services Administration supply programs, inadequate comparison shopping capabilities, the inability to ship EMall products directly to customers, and slow response times for searching and ordering.

However, in the years since, the Pentagon EMall has undergone several enhancements and revisions that significantly improved its performance and made it easier for the private sector to work with government purchasing officials.

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