ATF hopes to hit new heights

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which was one of the first agencies to outsource the management of its desktop computing environment, is taking that concept one step further.

Late last month, ATF awarded EDS a $300 million seat management contract. Like the preceding contract, awarded to Unisys Corp. in 1998, the new deal requires EDS to take responsibility for the agency's networks and computers.

With the new contract, though, agency officials are taking a managed services approach. Rather than provide the contractor with specifications about the systems desired, they will define performance measures that EDS must meet. The company will decide what technology to use.

The seat management network outsourcing contract "goes well beyond the original seat management contract," said Marguerite Moccia, the agency's deputy assistant director of science and technology and chief information officer.

"It's moving into a managed services contract," she said. "We didn't want to leave our old partners behind, but at the same time, we were looking for a broader solution, a performance-based solution."

The exact decisions about what those solutions will include will be made during the coming months in strategy and planning sessions with EDS, Moccia said.

The five-year managed services agreement announced earlier this month is the agency's third generation of a seat management contract. It will initially support about 8,500 seats in almost 260 locations nationwide. Each seat includes the management of hardware, software and services for every employee.

The transition from the existing Unisys solution has already started and will be complete by March 31, when the current contract expires, Moccia said.

"I am excited about the partnership," she said. "EDS had a lot of vision....This contract provides opportunities to provide more solutions."

Although ATF was one of the first federal agencies to explore the seat management concept, the largest such contract is the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, which is also led by EDS and has already been rolled out to more than 97,000 seats.

That contract has been plagued by many delays, but the experience company officials have gained from that implementation and from their losing bid on the Transportation Security Administration's Information Technology Managed Services contract in 2002 were important considerations when looking at the proposals for the ATF solution, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of consulting firm Acquisition Solutions Inc.

"It's a wealth of lessons learned, a wealth of ability to leverage experience already gained," Mather said. Acquisition Solutions helped both ATF and TSA develop their performance-based solicitations.

Acquisition is only the beginning, Moccia said. Setting and adjusting performance metrics, and managing the partnership during the next five to seven years will be just as important an example for other agencies, she said.

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