ALMRS open governmentwide

Citing the pinch of increasingly tight budgets, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management has launched an innovative procurement program that opens up its $403 million Automated Land and Mineral Record System/Modernization (ALMRS) contract to other land management agencies.

The office automation and geographic information system (GIS) contract will automate BLM's 1 billion pages of land and mineral records, amassed over 200 years. It will be extended to other land and mineral management agencies inside and outside Interior, particularly the Forest Service, which shares many of the same mission responsibilities with BLM.

"This is a cost-saving measure," said Bruce Beierle, the ALMRS contracting officer. "ALMRS was originally designed for BLM, but it's a universal system that can be used by other land management agencies."

Al Burman, former head administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, agreed that the extension of ALMRS would save agencies money by streamlining the procurement process.

"Everything we're doing these days is trying to make it simpler to get products and services," said Burman, now a vice president with the professional services firm Jefferson Strategic Marketing. "It seems to me there would be a real benefit in going this route."

The ALMRS extension is a validation of sorts for a contract that has had an unsettled past, including numerous early changes to the project's concept and scope, long delays for award and intense scrutiny from vendors, Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.

Just last year Congress used a General Accounting Office report criticizing BLM officials for possible cost overruns and testing only a limited portion of the system to cut the project's fiscal 1996 budget by 27 percent.

The contract extension comes at a time when ALMRS is nearly fully deployed, an opportune time for Computer Sciences Corp., the prime contractor that was awarded ALMRS in 1993. Still, CSC does not expect a windfall of revenue from the extension of the contract. CSC estimates the extension to be worth no more than $10 million over two or three years.

"This is really meant to be a money saver for agencies," which will not have to invest so much in preparing contracts, said John Ballance, CSC's business development manager for Interior and the Agriculture Department. "It's foolish and wasteful to reinvent the same thing from agency to agency."

As of last week, the ALMRS extension contract had not drawn a protest from other computer vendors. Beierle is confident BLM will avoid protests because the agency has received approval for the contract.

Targeting the Forest Service

BLM is using the ALMRS extension mainly to target the Forest Service, a USDA agency that has missions similar to BLM's. For example, both the Forest Service and BLM are involved in fighting forest fires, timber harvesting, assigning grazing rights and managing neighboring tracts of land.

In addition, the Forest Service and BLM have co-located offices in Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado, where the agencies will be sharing equipment and data.

Under ALMRS, more than 6,000 IBM Corp. RISC System/6000 workstations will be installed, the same workstations the Forest Service is installing under its $276 million Project 615 contract. Like ALMRS, Project 615 will provide the Forest Service and other USDA agencies with a modern GIS to manage lands.

The Forest Service is prohibited from purchasing hardware off the ALMRS contract if it can be bought under Project 615. Most equipment on ALMRS also appears on Project 615. However, ALMRS offers services that Project 615 does not, such as software development and system configuration, which the Forest Service can buy.

"Offering services is always a good way to go," said Dennis Keaton, deputy chief information officer for the Forest Service. "It just broadens the buffet of what's available."

Possibly two or three other USDA agencies may purchase off the ALMRS contract, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ballance said. Within Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Minerals Management Service and the National Park Service all have core missions that involve land management, Ballance added.

Agencies still will have to customize any system they buy off the ALMRS contract, depending on workload, case type and workflow processes.


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