Unisys official winner of IWS/LAN contract

Unisys Corp. last week was formally named the winner of the Social Security Administration's seven-year, $185 million Intelligent Workstation/Local Area Network (IWS/LAN) contract, the core program through which SSA officials plan to modernize the agency's operations, streamline administration and improve SSA services.

SSA officials said they chose Unisys over a number of other bidders primarily because of the company's aggressive pricing strategy, which was the most heavily weighted criterion, followed by past performance and technical ability.

"All the offerors were technically responsive and showed strong process capabilities," said Martin Baer, assistant deputy commissioner for systems at SSA and a member of the SSA Source Selection Committee, which evaluated the bids. "So, therefore, cost and some other factors entered into the discussion."

Other bidders included Electronic Data Systems Corp., Boeing Information Services, Cordant Inc., Loral Corp. (now part of Lockheed Martin Corp.) , AT&T and I-NET Inc. Officials from these companies declined to comment.

Only Software and Equipment

The Unisys award includes only computer equipment and software, which will total close to $300 million over the life of the contract. The $500 million to $600 million figure FCW reported last week includes the renovation of offices, including the purchase of new furniture and cable installations. SSA's Division of Finance, Assessment and Management is handling the renovation portion of IWS/LAN, relying mostly on existing multiple contracts that are similar to the General Services Administration schedule.

Baer dismissed speculation from industry sources that Unisys won the contract not only because of a low bid but also because of its Global Customer Service Organization, a set of integration centers that are located worldwide and that employ network engineers in every state [FCW, June 17]. Baer said all proposals had satisfactory capabilities in meeting the tight schedule to install IWS/LAN.

Still, Unisys' centers will be instrumental in installing the 56,500 Win Laboratories Inc. workstations and 1,700 Dell Computer Corp. servers that will make up the new system, said Joseph Santamaria, vice president and general manager of Unisys' Information Technologies.

Santamaria also speculated that Unisys' proposal may have received a boost because the company manages many of its services in-house and does not hire a lot of subcontractors.

"We're somewhat unique," he said. "We are an integrator, maintenance provider and installer. With our competitors, one may be an integrator, one may be a maintenance provider, and one may be an installer. It's absolutely critical that you have control" when undertaking a contract as complex as IWS/LAN.

Unisys will install 75 LANs each month, working during weekends so as not to disrupt the normal business hours at SSA's 1,300 field offices and 200 state disability determination service offices, processing centers, teleservice centers and hearings offices.

A Strong Integration Plan

Renato DiPentima, the former deputy commissioner for systems at SSA who now works for Systems Research and Applications Corp., said SSA from the beginning of the procurement process was looking for a vendor who had a strong integration plan and could install the system quickly and smoothly.

DiPentima, who was in charge of the development of IWS/LAN before he retired from SSA last year, likened the implementation of IWS/LAN to taking off from the "East Coast on a 727, building a 747 in mid-air, moving all the passengers over, then landing on the West Coast and not hurting anyone in the process.... It looks like Unisys may have met those requirements."

Installation of IWS/LAN will begin in October, after Unisys completes some preliminary work, such as recertification of its proposal, configuration testing and an SSA review of the company's integration centers.

Unisys will install Pentium 100 MHz workstations with 32M of RAM and a 1G hard drive. Software will include Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, Word and Excel.

Other Unisys subcontractors include Learning Systems International, CompUSA, TeAM Inc. and NaCom.


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