I-NET lands $42.6M support services pact at USPS

The U.S. Postal Service has awarded a $42.6 million outsourcing contract to I-NET Inc. to provide information support services for the agency's headquarters.

The seven-year, fixed-price Computer Facilities Management pact is a consolidation of several contracts and task orders held by numerous vendors, including DynCorp. By consolidating the various contracts and task orders into one, USPS expects to reduce the overall money spent on these types of services.

What is particularly interesting about the contract from a vendor perspective is the speed at which the procurement was conducted, according to Roger Cooper, vice president of information network services at I-NET.

The agency sent out a vendor questionnaire, created a short list of 10 pre-qualified vendors who presented their proposals, conducted a question-and-answer session and made an award within three months, Cooper said.

The procurement was conducted in "the spirit of the ITMRA," he said last week, referring to the Information Technology Management Reform Act that goes into effect next month. "We complained about the procurement system, and now [agencies] are starting to make progress. Typically, this could have taken a year, [but] the USPS did it fast and cheap. It's fair to say we spent one-tenth to two-tenths of what we would have normally" spent on bid and preparation costs, according to Cooper.

The short period of time in which vendors had to turn around a proposal showed USPS which "vendors have the goods and which vendors don't," Cooper added.

Under the contract, I-NET will provide technical support services, including help desk management, data center operations and management, workstation and local-area networking administration and management, wide-area connectivity support, mail server administration and engineering integration services.

USPS' Office and Executive Information Services (O&EIS) organization, which will become a customer of I-NET under the contract, will continue to be a major provider of information systems support services to the headquarters building, which serves around 2,500 users. O&EIS previously used the support services provided by at least three contractors as supplemental services to run headquarters facilities. The I-NET contract consolidates the administrative management of operations under one contractor so that O&EIS will play more of an oversight role and be less involved in day-to-day contract management.

Janet Webster, information systems specialist at USPS, said these services have been provided by vendors for the past three or four years. No postal employees lost their jobs as a result of the I-NET contract, she said.

Outsourcing contracts are gaining in popularity at USPS. For example, USPS is expected to release a request for proposals shortly on an estimated $500 million Managed Network Services outsourcing contract.

"It's all based on the fact that the USPS needs to expand its business base," said Rob Wood, the national account manager for USPS at Bay Networks Inc. The agency has seen "a lot of its market share eroded by competition from e-mail, fax and companies like Federal Express."

Outsourcing allows USPS to focus on new areas of business rather than building and supporting the networking infrastructure, Wood said. "They're saying we need to have the infrastructure to support [new initiatives], but we don't have the time or people to move that quickly."

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