RFP prepped for $600M operations consolidation pact

NASA is preparing a request for proposals to consolidate the agency's space operations support into one massive procurement expected to be worth at least $600 million a year.

The contract, called the Consolidated Space Operations Contract, would support the planning and execution phases of NASA missions. CSOC is expected to swallow many large, existing information technology contracts, including data-capture systems, data networks, mission and network control facilities, hardware and software systems that support mission preparation, and robotic space flight operations. CSOC would also consolidate contracts related to space operations facilities.

Specific contracts likely to fall under the consolidation include Marshall Space Flight Center's Program Information Systems Missions Service contract, Goddard Space Flight Center's space network operations facilities, the mission control centers at Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's wide-area networks and the Deep Space Network contract at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

JSC's Space Operations Management Office is administering the contract. NASA Ames Research Laboratory, designated the "center of excellence" for IT, is providing technical advice to the SOMO.

The move is a direct result of NASA's Zero Base Review, which recommended that the agency maximize outsourcing and commercialization and adopt consolidated, performance-based contracts.

The plan for one contract is part of "a strategy to move to an integrated, interoperable system" that would rely on commercial off-the-shelf software and hardware more than ever before, said Ron Hack, NASA's chief information officer.

"Today, we have limited sharing of our systems," said Steve Bales, director of SOMO at JSC, speaking at an industry outreach conference held in March at NASA headquarters. "We don't share as much as we should."

An agencywide study released last year suggested that 70 percent of NASA's space operations costs fall under hardware and software costs and sustaining engineering. "The work that is done in those areas is done by several different contractors," said Michael DeMasie, executive technical assistant to the director of space operations at JSC.

Cost-Reduction Benefits

"We believe the no-brainer is that we will reduce costs with the reduction of management overhead" achieved through consolidating NASA's large space operations support contracts, he said.

In addition to gaining cost savings through consolidation, "we're going to try to do some creative things in the procurement that will truly incentivize the contractor to reduce his service base. We would like to be more of a commercial customer than an owner and operator," DeMasie said.

The length of time the contract would cover is still undecided, DeMasie said.

"Our view is that [CSOC] is completely consistent with NASA's desire to become more efficient, and let industry run those areas that are outside NASA's core competencies," said Bob Spearing, president of Telos Information Systems, a division of Telos Corp.

"Because it incorporates so many earlier procurements and endeavors, it's going to attract the large primes with a stakehold in NASA business," Spearing said.

A draft RFP is expected Sept. 1, with a final RFP expected two months later. Award is expected in the summer of 1997.

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