Robbins-Gioia eyes new management role on BLSM

Robbins-Gioia Inc., a services and support firm specializing in complex program management, will take on a new role—team leader—if it wins the bid for the Air Force Base-Level Systems Modernization (BLSM) II, a $400 million systems integration project.

Robbins-Gioia is leading one of the half-dozen teams bidding on BLSM II, the Air Force's Global Combat Support System program. But instead of taking the lead as a systems integrator, Robbins-Gioia will serve as "general contractor," overseeing the technical activity of its team members and not doing any development work itself.

The government has a better chance of succeeding with BLSM II if its prime contractor focuses on program management rather than system development, said Avon James, director of strategic development at Robbins-Gioia, Alexandria, Va. Robbins-Gioia employs about 450 people worldwide and generates revenue of about $50 million a year.

"We ensure the government a prime focus on management, with sufficient attention to technical [details] but substantial attention to management because that is where large programs have always [faltered]," James said.

Other primes bidding on BLSM II include Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., PRC Inc., Science Applications International Corp. and TRW Inc.'s Systems Integration Group, according to Federal Sources Inc.

Program management—or what James calls business engineering—has been Robbins-Gioia's focus for the past 15 years. The firm typically assists agencies with budget, scheduling and risk mitigation in complex projects involving technological or organizational issues.

On BLSM II, Robbins-Gioia, as general contractor, would play much the same role, making sure that work gets done on time and on budget and being in a position to take action when something slips. Robbins-Gioia's team includes AT&T, IBM Corp., Motorola, Network Imaging Corp. and Sterling Software Inc. Robbins-Gioia intends for its subcontractors to compete on specific tasks throughout the life on the contract, the vendor said.

Management and accountability frequently get lost when the lead vendor is a systems integrator actually involved in delivering products or services, said Russ Hale, president of Network Imaging's Federal Division in Herndon, Va.

"What the government needs is a [tough] general contractor who has no vested interest," said Hale, who has overseen large technology projects in the Air Force and as a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee. According to Hale, team members know that Robbins-Gioia will not hesitate to "bench" or even fire a subcontractor that is not performing.

"I think it would take an enlightened agency willing to try something new to use [the general-contractor approach]," said Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources. However, "the administration is strongly encouraging experimentation [and] pushing the idea of risk management."

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