There are now two bidders left in the race to win the contract for the Ministry of Defence's £4bn IT overhaul, described as one of the world's most difficult infrastructure projects.
Consortia led by EDS and Computer Sciences Corporation met the 5 April deadline for bids on the 10-year Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) project, after those led by IBM and Lockheed Martin pulled out.
IBM pulled out late last year, while Lockheed withdrew in March, citing fears about the way the contract was structured.
The contract, which is due to be awarded in the first quarter of 2005, will provide IT support to about 300,000 MoD and military staff and integrate more than 200 legacy systems.
The MoD plans to split the 10-year project into three stages. The partners will be selected on their ability to deliver the complete 10-year requirement, but the MoD will, initially, commit only to the first stage.
Commitment to the second and third stages will depend on the contractor's performance, value for money delivered, and the MoD's needs.
Bob Quick, DII project team leader for the MoD, said the initiative could shave as much as 20% off existing IT expenditure by consolidating purchasing arrangements and helpdesk functions.
The MoD has a poor record of delivering complex technology projects. A report from the National Audit Office in December 2002 slammed the ministry for underestimating the risks involved in major projects and for time slippage in procurement programmes.
Atlas consortium: EDS, Fujitsu, Cogent, General Dynamics, LogicaCMG
Radii consortium: CSC, BT, Thales UK