ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 24, 2015) -- By establishing one, go-to mechanism for tactical commercial off-the-shelf information technology (COTS IT), the Army has created a standard marketplace that utilizes the most effective and efficient contract vehicles to deliver needed IT solutions for Soldiers.

On April 14, Heidi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, signed a memorandum designating the Common Hardware Systems (CHS) program office as the primary organization to oversee tactical commercial hardware procurement. The CHS program office maintains a portfolio of commercial technologies that satisfy tactical requirements including servers, clients, network routing and switching devices, ruggedized laptops, handheld devices, operational transit cases and other peripheral devices. The memo creates a holistic approach and a streamlined lifecycle management path by directing all Army program offices requiring COTS IT systems to first coordinate with CHS.

"This important step moves the Army's tactical COTS IT procurement into the modern age," said Stan Niemiec, the Army's project director for Network Enablers, which includes CHS. "It gives the Army a single focal point to assist program managers in deciding the best route when procuring their tactical hardware packages, and it inserts commonality into the systems."

As the Army continues to advance the Common Operating Environment (COE) framework to support the rapid development and delivery of secure, interoperable software applications, CHS is coordinating with multiple programs to facilitate efficient procurement and sustainment of hardware items across the COE, while leveraging industry innovation to supply the latest technologies to Soldiers.

Through its holistic approach to Army tactical hardware, CHS realized $132 million in cost avoidance across 11 programs in fiscal year 2014.

"We can offer program managers acquisition recommendations based on their requirements, because we've done the legwork on what contract vehicle would best suit their needs," said Danielle Kays, product director for CHS. "The program managers still make the decision, we're just providing smart options."

This one-stop-shop for tactical COTS IT will help to garner benefits for Army programs. CHS is a contract vehicle that informs programs' decision-making processes by facilitating collaboration across acquisition programs and with COTS IT industry providers to identify mature technologies and corresponding hardware solutions. By consolidating COTS IT system configurations via a Common Hardware Menu, program managers can achieve efficiencies through consolidated procurements of COTS IT leveraging the most effective commercial contract vehicle, and facilitate consolidated sustainment for COTS IT leveraging the Army's organic resources.

For example, Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) and PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors were able to use CHS to establish a common Tactical Server Infrastructure (TSI). TSI merges operational and intelligence functions onto one common set of servers at the secret and below classification. Now, Soldiers from both the Signal and Intelligence areas will just have to train on one type of server.

Since its launch in 1987, the CHS program has provided a consolidated acquisition approach for tactical technology solutions, offering economies of scale and complete lifecycle management and warranty for systems of all sizes and varying levels of ruggedization. Combining a prime contractor with options for small business procurement and Army organic support, CHS, as part of PEO C3T, serves as a broker uniting Army programs with the technologies that meet their requirements.

In addition to the relationship with industry, CHS also offers a strong connection to the Army organic industrial base including Tobyhanna Army Depot, which provides hardware repairs, refresh and other support.

With its new designation, CHS will continue to work with program managers, advising them on smart procurement choices including other commercial contract vehicles such as Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS), the Global Tactical Advanced Communications Systems (GTACS) and General Services Administration (GSA) procurements.