GSA’s consolidation 2.0 project

Agency looks to a shared services model to eliminate costly redundancies in the procurement system

Common cause

The General Services Administration operates nine largely independent acquisition systems through its Integrated Acquisition Environment. Agency officials want to build sets of common services that can replace duplicative functions in those systems.

According to the plan, areas targeted first for consolidation include:

  • User registration systems.
  • Application databases.
  • Help-desk support.
  • Server hosting.

— David Perera

A General Services Administration-managed e-government project with a history of consolidating federal acquisition systems needs streamlining, according to GSA officials.

The agency will seek a single vendor for the operations and maintenance of its Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE). It houses nine governmentwide acquisition systems, including the Central Contractor Registration database and the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The single vendor will be responsible for rationalizing today’s heterogeneous technology environment among the nine IAE systems and create a service-oriented architecture that allows for areas of shared functionality, such as user registration and databases, to be shared and reused.

“We’re going to get away from awarding contracts for each of these nine systems and thus try to avoid perpetuating the stovepipe mentality,” said Chris Fornecker, director of GSA’s Office of Acquisition systems.

GSA plans to release a draft RFP in October and a final RFP in November and award a contract by June 2009, Fornecker said. GSA is calling the acquisition Architecture and Operations Contract Support (AOCS).

Consolidation equals savings
A completed GSA project to integrate FedBizOpps with the Federal Technical Data Solutions (FedTeDS) system should save the government $1.6 million in the next fiscal year, Fornecker added.

GSA will also prepare two other acquisitions for consolidated IAE help-desk support and server hosting. GSA will use its USA Contact acquisition vehicle for the help-desk acquisition and make an award in early 2009, said GSA spokesman Mike Collins. Planning for the server-hosting contract is the least far along, but the agency’s tentative goal is to make an award by spring 2009. Collins declined to release the estimated value of the three acquisitions, citing procurement regulations.

IAE is one of 24 e-government projects launched in 2002 as part of the President’s Management Agenda. It replaced stand-alone acquisition systems run by individual agencies. However, the time has come for further consolidation, Fornecker said.

“We frankly don’t need nine databases,” he said. “We probably can get by with one and just add tables and data elements to capture some of the unique services some of these systems do.”

To reach that goal, the AOCS will ask vendors to propose a service-oriented architecture. The new SOA environment will assimilate existing systems in a phased approach. The Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) will be the first system to be integrated, in fiscal 2009. FedBizOpps will be the next target, slated for integration in 2010, Fornecker said.

One task that the AOCS vendor won’t be asked to do is update the code of the various IAE systems. Instead, Fornecker said he envisions two to four annual competitions for software developers to keep the constituent system’s functionalities up-to-date. Contractually separating development from operations and maintenance will ensure competition, Fornecker said. GSA will require developers to use open-source coding. The AOCS vendor will be responsible for new requirements generation, testing and change management, however.

Some systems under the IAE umbrella have come under criticism. In particular, FPDS has been censured for poor data quality. A March 2007 memo from Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Paul Denett that admonished agencies to be more careful has improved matters, procurement experts say.

“I can see some improvement happening,” said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of FedSources, but “it’s not a wholesale turnaround, by any means.”

Agencies have recently complained that the system introduces errors. Fornecker said GSA is “making every effort to make the data as good as possible before anothe vend r takes over.”

Perera (www.dperera.com) is a freelance writer.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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