GSA making data more readily available

A new architecture will allow third-party providers to create apps aimed at various industry segments that use the agency's procurement information.

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The General Services Administration is set to unveil a new procurement database architecture that will provide readier access to GSA's vast storehouse of acquisition information for vendors, federal agencies and other organizations that track government buying and grants.

The architecture builds on GSA's Integrated Award Environment and System for Award Management, and it focuses on core application programming interfaces that extract common requirements from SAM. IAE is GSA's e-government initiative aimed at facilitating all phases of the acquisition life cycle, from market research to contract administration.

GSA officials said the new capabilities target three procurement business processes within SAM and IAE: post-contract award data, pre-contract award data and entity management.

Navin Vembar, acting director of IAE, and Judith Zawatsky, acting director of outreach and stakeholder management for IAE, told FCW that the new architecture will allow third-party providers to create applications aimed at the different industry segments that use the procurement information amassed by the agency. The apps will allow those developers to bundle contracting data for specific sets of potential data consumers.

GSA officials also hope third parties will use the architecture to create applications that allow users in specific markets to manipulate the data.

Previously, Zawatsky said, "communities of users weren't well-addressed" in IAE.

The contracting data contained in IAE and SAM is used by 35,000 contracting professionals and more than 500,000 entities, including the federal government, grantees, small and large businesses, financial institutions, and mortgage companies.

With the new architecture, Vembar said users will log into the platform only once to access the information. Previously, users had to remember multiple logins for the various systems.

"Open-source tools and open IAE code will allow development of applications in a secure environment," Vembar said.

Groups that use the data for purposes not directly related to federal procurement -- for example, financial institutions that track contractor performance or universities that use the system to manage their flow of federal grant money -- will find it easier to access and track that information using applications developed with the new open platform, she said.

GSA will officially unveil the architecture Dec. 18 in a webcast that charts the way forward for IAE. Zawatsky and Vembar said it will be the first in a continuing series of meetings with industry aimed at developing future IAE capabilities.

GSA CIO Casey Coleman will lead the meeting, along with Deputy CIO Sonny Hashmi and Kevin Youel Page, assistant IAE commissioner.

A better SAM

The new architecture is the latest step in developing and consolidating multiple IAE systems into an integrated workforce toolset for awards management across government.

SAM, a primary piece of IAE, had been beset by problems since it was rolled out a few years ago, ranging from security concerns to performance issues. Those issues have been largely addressed, Vembar and Zawatsky said.

After operating under an interim authority, SAM got a new authority to operate on Nov. 25. GSA said SAM underwent certification and accreditation that included an independent security assessment, penetration testing and addressing any identified security issues according to guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

GSA is not looking to get rid of SAM, Zawatsky said, but rather is refocusing it into an agile, open-formatted, user-centric, design-oriented platform that capitalizes on the agency's data and industry knowledge.

"We want a system that big contractors like Boeing can use, as well as John Q. Public," she said.

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