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Air Force saving money on software upgrades

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 23, 2002) -- Quick thinking on the part of Air Force communications officials will save the service more than $9 million and provide a number of organizations with upgraded computer-server maintenance software as well.

A joint initiative by the Air Force's commercial information technology product area directorate at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., and the Air Force directorate of communications operations calls for purchasing Microsoft Upgrade Advantage in bulk numbers. This action is being praised in Pentagon circles a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Among the organizations that will benefit directly from the idea are Air Force Space Command, Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces and Air Force Materiel Command.

By purchasing Upgrade Advantage, Air Force organizations already running older server software can get the latest version for far less than if they bought it off the shelf.

Microsoft imposed a July 31 deadline earlier in the year as part of a change to its software maintenance agreement. After that date, organizations with an older version of the software would have had to re-buy their license before they could purchase software maintenance, as well as miss out on the discount through the corporation. Officials met the deadline.

But according to Sandra Emrich of the directorate of communications, this initiative is not just about beating a deadline. It is about cooperation and the pooling of funds from Air Force major commands.

"We were able to get the MAJCOMs to come together and cooperate," Emrich said. "Some of the MAJCOMs had a lot of money, and when that money is brought together, you can leverage the price down for everyone."

Most MAJCOMs purchase software independently of each other, according to Emrich. However, this time they came together to make a large-scale purchase, essentially working as an Air Force enterprise, like a large corporation. Businesses like Microsoft often offer discounts and benefits to large corporations.

"MAJCOMs need to put on their Air Force hat and see how much they can benefit by helping each other," she said. "If we do (software purchases) at Air Force level, we make it easy for them to reap the benefit of working together for the Air Force as a whole."

Other organizations that participated in the buy were the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph AFB, Texas; the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB, Neb.; the Standard Systems Group at Maxwell AFB; and the 75th Communications Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah.