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Marines Eye $75 Million 'Web 2.0 In A Box'

James Bond-style briefcase would allow troops to collaborate with commanders from hostile locations.

The U.S. Marine Corps is willing to pay up to $75 million to any tech vendor that can develop a computer-in-a-briefcase system that would let Special Forces troops securely e-mail, videoconference, and chat with commanders from behind enemy lines or from other hot spots.

The proposed Expeditionary Command and Control Suite (ECCS) is "a transit case/suitcase-based communications solution" that would provide field troops with access to the armed forces' Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, as well as e-mail, voice, and videoconferencing tools, according to an official request for proposal published this month by the Marine Corps.

According to the RFP, leathernecks could use the system to maintain contact with commanders, possibly while under fire, until able to establish less-temporary command-and-control systems. "This system and the services it provides are required by initial response teams to facilitate communications with higher headquarters while on-the-pause and over-the-horizon," the RFP states.

The document states that the government expects to pay between $2 million and $75 million for a five-year contract under which an external vendor would develop and manage the system and provide help-desk support.

The Marines want the system to employ "state-of-the-market hardware and software." The successful bidder "will provide ECCS production, sustainment, systems engineering, integration, fielding, and logistics support to provide communications with ECCS services and to the Marine Corps," the RFP states.

In ordering such as system, the Marines are taking a page from private industry, which increasingly is turning to unified, Web-based communications that can handle video, voice, and data requirements. Civilian systems, however, are not designed to be reliable in locations such as, say, the mountains of Afghanistan.

Interested vendors must reply to the Marine Corps by March 18.

Learn more about unified communications at TechWeb's VoiceCon Orlando, March 30 to April 2. Join us (registration required).

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