It has been nearly 18 months since the Army’s Tank-Automotive
and Armaments Command (TACOM) abandoned paper in favor of all-electronic
contracts. The agency, however, is taking a “cautious approach”
in its e-commerce strategy, because TACOM has unique equipment needs,
said Patrick N. Watkins, an electronic business specialist at the
One of the growing areas in e-commerce today is reverse auctions.
These are auctions where suppliers compete online to sell an item
to a buyer. TACOM has yet to conduct any reverse auctions but it
is planning to do so, Watkins said in an interview in Dearborn,
TACOM is a $7 billion a year agency that purchases and manages
major weapon systems for the U.S. military services.
The items that are more suitable for reverse auctions are commodities,
which are bought in large quantities and sold by many competitors,
Watkins explained. “TACOM is trying to see whether auctions
will work with military items.” But the command currently
has many of its spare parts purchases tied up in long-term contracts
with companies, and is not able to conduct any auctions until the
contracts expire, said Watkins.
About 70 percent of TACOM’s commodity purchases—for
items such as canvas, rubber products, tools, machine parts—are
in long-term contracts currently, he said. TACOM has not yet quantified
any potential cost savings from buying spare parts through reverse
auctions. “We are trying to get feedback from vendors,”
Reverse auctions for TACOM will be conducted on the Web site of
the Army’s Communications and Electronics Command at www.monmouth.army.mil.
Watkins noted that TACOM also introduced a vendor notification
system that allows companies to receive e-mail messages on new solicitations
and amendments, saving vendors web-scrolling time. That service
is available at contracting.tacom.army.mil/vendreg.htm.
Because TACOM has five large sites, all of which purchase equipment
separately, the command’s procurement network allows vendors
to have “visibility” of contracting opportunities across
all five locations, Watkins said. TACOM’s five major sites
are in Warren, Mich.; Rock Island, Ill.; Picatinny, N.J.; Anniston
Army Depot, Ala., and Red River Army Depot, Texas.
Each location, he said, has a “business opportunities”
Web page, where vendors can find market surveys, open solicitations,
technical data packages, procurement histories, contract awards,
TACOM qualified-suppliers lists and other acquisition-related information.
Since June 1999, said Watkins, all TACOM contracts have been posted
on the Web and paper copies are not made, unless it’s needed.
For example, certain banks that do not conduct business electronically
may require a paper copy of a contract before it will make a loan.
The one item that TACOM could not digitize, said Watkins, was a
construction bond that required an embossed seal, issued by state
and local agencies before a construction project could begin. That
will change, he said, as soon as new legislation is signed, authorizing