Unisys apparent winner of $300 million IWS/LAN

Unisys Corp. is the apparent winner of the Social Security Administration's seven-year, $300 million Intelligent Workstation/Local-Area Network program, the core of the agency's modernization effort.

A central part of SSA's ambitious reinvention effort to streamline the agency, reduce administrative costs, improve service to the public and rebuild public confidence, IWS/LAN will supply the agency with 1,700 LANs and 56,000 workstations - enough to place a computer on nearly every employee's desk in SSA's 1,300 field offices.

The workstations will replace 1970s-vintage dumb terminals and allow SSA employees to immediately update individuals' files and quickly access SSA databases in Washington, D.C., in order to answer citizens' questions on the spot.

Industry sources said SSA informed Unisys of its selection late Friday. The sources said the official signing of the contract would occur this week. An SSA spokesman said no contract award had been made as of late Friday, adding that he did not know whether Unisys had been selected.

A spokeswoman for Unisys said that as of press time late Friday, the company had not been notified officially of a formal contract award.

Unisys was selected out of a field of competitors that represent the top names in the federal information technology industry. Confirmed IWS/LAN bidders include Electronic Data Systems Corp., Boeing Information Services Inc. and Cordant Inc. Loral Corp. (now part of Lockheed Martin Corp.) , AT&T and I-Net Inc. also bid on the contract, according to industry sources. Unisys and EDS were considered the front runners for IWS/LAN, sources said.

The initial award value of IWS/LAN is about $300 million, according to industry sources. One source added, however, that the ultimate value could reach $500 million to $600 million.

Unisys was believed to have a few small companies as subcontractors, including Win Laboratories Inc.

The award to a single vendor is somewhat unusual in today's procurement climate, said Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. "Everyone else, rightly or wrongly, is headed more toward multiple awards," he said. "But it sounds like SSA has a real grasp of what they want to do, so one award is probably the best way to go" because it allows more control.

One of the biggest challenges of IWS/LAN is the implementation schedule, which involves installing seven LANs every weekend. Unisys will reportedly use its Global Customer Services Organization, which has certified network engineers in every state, to install equipment.

The contract award marks at least a temporary end to a turbulent process that made SSA the target of criticism by vendors, Congress, the General Accounting Office and the now-defunct Office of Technology Assessment.

In an interview before the award, Martin Baer, assistant deputy commissioner for systems at SSA, said the changes IWS/LAN will bring to SSA are similar to the heady first days of creating the Social Security system in the 1930s, when government wrestled with the way it should provide services to the public.

"The idea is to get information out to the front-line workers, the ones who interface with the public everyday," Baer said. "It will make a visit a one-time, one-visit, one-stop-shopping call."

"Now [employees] will be able to key whatever they need up on the screen and get the answer to a question instead of leaving their desks, walking over to the manuals and paging to the appropriate section," said Dean Mesterharm, SSA's deputy commissioner for systems. "This is just going to be a world of difference."

In all, IWS/LAN will save SSA $80 million a year because of increased productivity, according to SSA figures.

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