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SAP ratchets up homeland security push

The company hires a former U.S. Air Force general to oversee its efforts to sell software to government agencies involved in homeland security.

SAP has hired a former U.S. Air Force general to oversee an effort to sell software to government agencies involved in homeland security.

The Waldorf, Germany, company announced the appointment of retired Maj. Gen. John Barry this week. SAP said Barry will help it focus on its "global defense and security initiative," a niche many software suppliers have rushed to fill since the devastating terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

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SAP began the initiative about a year ago with the first release of its Security Resource Management software programs. The software package was designed to assist governments in border security, emergency response, military deployment and intelligence gathering.

The introduction of the product followed similar moves by SAP rivals Siebel Systems, Oracle and PeopleSoft. Although the companies have sold their programs to the public sector for years, they are best-known for software that streamlines corporate tasks, including accounting, human resources, customer service and manufacturing.

Gartner analysts have questioned the bandwagon mentality and eagerness of these companies to "cash in" on increased homeland defense and military spending.

"SAP has put new packaging around previously released e-government and supply chain offerings," Gartner said in a report issued last March. "In Gartner's opinion, vendors that repackage products without developing functions customized for homeland security missions will not have much success."

Nevertheless, SAP said it has gained "momentum" in the defense industry. Among the company's customers are the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, the Defense Logistics Agency as well as defense agencies in Germany, Denmark and Canada.

Oracle also sought to advance its homeland security agenda by hiring a retired general. The company added former U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph "Keith" Kellogg Jr. to its staff last July as senior vice president of its Homeland Security Program Office. Kellogg didn't stick with Oracle for long. He took a leave of absence in November to work for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.