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CHIPS Articles: DoD ESI: The More You Know, the More You Save

DoD ESI: The More You Know, the More You Save
Thousands of IT products and services available under DoD ESI agreements are at your fingertips
By Heather Rutherford - July-September 2016
It’s often frustrating and time-consuming for information technology buyers to obtain the best price for commercial software and services. To assist purchasers, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (DoD ESI) team offers commercial best practices, training and tools, including a proven model for software acquisition, to obtain best value for IT purchases.

The DoD ESI is an official Defense Department initiative sponsored by the DoD Chief Information Officer (CIO) to facilitate the establishment and management of enterprise commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) information technology agreements, assets, and policies.

Working with leading IT companies and entities, such as the Military Departments, the DoD ESI works to lower the total cost of ownership across the DoD, Coast Guard and Intelligence Communities by negotiating discounts and more favorable terms and conditions for commercial software, IT hardware and services.


Launched in 1998 by chief information officers from across the Defense Department, the DoD ESI issued its first software agreement only a year later. Due to its success, from 2000 on, DoD policy has required consideration of DoD ESI agreements to maximize savings across the Defense Department.

The initiative quickly expanded, and by 2002, the DoD ESI began to include IT services and hardware in addition to software. In 2003, the program was a model for the Federal-wide SmartBUY initiative launched by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA). With its best practices and a rich portfolio of Enterprise Software Agreements, tools, templates, training and prices paid database, the DoD ESI team is now helping implement Federal Software Category Management with the OMB, GSA and the Enterprise Software Category Team (ESCT).

The DoD ESI achieved a cost avoidance of more than $6 billion off prices established on the GSA Federal Supply Schedule. The DoD ESI was able to attain this extraordinary impact to costs for software and related services by negotiating discounts of as much as 86 percent off list prices.

Training, DoD ESI Style

The DoD ESI website offers a wide variety of information for acquisition professionals as well as access to on-site training courses and webinars to assist in negotiating terms and conditions for software licenses and maintenance agreements for active duty military, civilian personnel and contractors.

A visit to the DoD ESI website yields information about multiple courses as well as links to register for on-site training. Additionally, there is a wealth of information for users to learn more about the DoD ESI — including videos and downloadable brochures — all in a clear, user-friendly format.

Not sure exactly how to navigate the DoD ESI website? Don’t worry — there’s a set of tutorials to learn how to do just that.

The DoD ESI website features video tutorials discussing multiple subjects such as enterprise license agreements, risk assessment, and cloud computing. The training is thorough and comprehensive; the industry training module alone covers software-related considerations such as intellectual property, ownership rights, and software publisher business models, sales strategies and tactics.

For more experienced users, the Resources and Tools section is chock-full of useful tools and information, including a software self-audit checklist, value determination toolkits, official guidance and white papers.

Have specific questions about the DoD ESI? An expert response is at your fingertips. The website’s Ask an Expert feature allows users to submit questions directly to a subject matter expert on a range of topics, from software and hardware, to requesting a consultation or to partnering with the DoD ESI.

Whatever your needs may be for IT acquisition, the DoD ESI has you covered.

For an overview about the DoD ESI, see this short video.

Heather Rutherford is the CHIPS assistant editor. She can be reached at

Mr. Floyd Groce, DON CIO IT Strategic Sourcing Lead and Co-Chair of the DoD ESI Working Group, contributed to this article.

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CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

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