After more than a year of negotiations, the Australian Defence Department has finally signed a $240 million contract with information technology services group Unisys. Under the contract, Unisys will provide desktop support for 100,000 PCs at 460 bases around Australia. It will also provide network security and infrastructure support.
Unisys was named preferred supplier for the project in January 2007, earmarked as the successful bidder in a request-for-tender process that began in 2005. Announcing Unisys as its preferred supplier last year, Defence said negotiations would be completed by August and service delivery would begin in late 2007.
In a statement announcing the final agreement, Defence said the work had been subject to "complex and detailed negotiations".
Factors complicating the project are understood to have included the need for Unisys to work with both the Defence CIO Group and rival IT services group Kaz, which holds the $200 million support contract for Defence's central operations.
Defence has been operating at a high tempo, leaving little room for systems failures that affect operations.
The agreement is also understood to have been given close attention by new Defence chief information officer Gregg Farr. The transfer of the work from Defence to Unisys is expected to take about 18 months.
Media reports have suggested more than 300 jobs may be cut from Defence's own operations as part of the program.
"Throughout this process, Defence will ensure that all personnel currently responsible for the functions transferring across to Unisys will have access to retraining, redeployment or redundancy entitlements," Defence Support deputy secretary Martin Bowles said.
"Unisys has continued to emphasise its intention to employ a significant number of the Defence staff currently involved in regional ICT service delivery."
The move to give contractors access to Defence systems has caused some disquiet within the department. The executive director of the Australian Defence Association, Neil James, said earlier this month that both Defence and Unisys had failed to provide sufficient reassurance that security could be maintained.
But in its announcement, Defence was at pains to detail the security requirements that would be placed on Unisys, and said the department "would maintain control of its computer networks while Unisys would manage the day-to-day operations under strict policy and performance standards oversighted by Defence".
© Fairfax Business Media
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