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Final bids in for MoD's £4bn IT project

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Today, two groups will submit final bids for the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII), a £4bn Ministry of Defence (MoD) IT programme. Atlas, a consortium headed by EDS and Fujitsu, will go head to head with Radii, made up of BT, CSC and Thales.

The contract, worth £4bn , will be awarded in three stages. Both consortiums have submitted bids for all three stages, but the MoD is only making its decision one stage at a time. It will announce the winner of the first stage in March 2005.

Radii CEO Gary Mellor, says the expectation is that the winner of the first stage - if it performs well - will win the contracts for the next two stages.

The DII project aims to provide a single, common platform for all three of the UK's armed forces. This will enable them to co-ordinate and share information more easily between forces, and between the back office and the front line. It will also be interoperable with US military systems.

In place today are multiple, bespoke systems, developed by individual units within the forces. Some networks serve as many as 15,000 personnel, while others are just local area networks with a few users. Many information and communications systems are not interoperable, making it hard for commanders to keep track of supplies or troops, and keep the MoD up to date with events.

Sir Roger Wheeler, the former joint commander of British forces in Bosnia, and now a non-exec director at Thales, explained how the DII will affect military operations.

"The most important thing the DII will do is make sure we know where the kit is that we need...It sounds silly, when we are sitting here in a country with a functioning infrastructure. But most of the places that expeditionary warfare goes have no infrastructure. Someone's destroyed it, which is why we're there. So we have to take it with us," he said.

Currently, a significant number of soldiers are required to co-ordinate communications between the three forces and with the government. This makes command centres large and vulnerable to attack. The idea behind the DII is to reduce this to a single station, gathering information from all three forces.

The MoD expects the DII to deliver efficiency savings of £170m over the life of the contract. ®

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