Board plans IT overhaul for retirement system

To accommodate the more than $39 billion in assets invested by more than 2 million federal employees the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board recently issued a request for proposals to overhaul the system that administers the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

The RFP calls for changing the current IBM Corp. mainframe-based system to a more integrated system that is based on projected workload requirements over the next 10 years.

Available to all federal and postal employees TSP is the nation's largest program of its kind. When the plan was started in 1986 the system developed to process TSP information was devised in haste.

According to the statement of work accompanying the RFP the system's quick development forced the agency to neglect software development and documentation procedures. These elements are crucial because the system must interface with more than 200 federal payroll systems.

Although the project has no known price it is thought to be an extensive undertaking because the information load is so vast. "Thirty-nine billion dollars in assets - you're not going to do that on a PC " said Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc.

According to Dornan the program is a classic example of a comprehensive agency redesign effort that avoids the more highly publicized and contemporary contract vehicles.

"The interesting thing here is that there is a general impression that everyone is solving problems through bits and pieces of systems purchased off [indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts] " he said. "Here is a situation where an agency wants something done and will go through the time and effort to do it. It proves that the world is not totally stampeding through these IDIQ contracts."

At bidders' disposal is a 1994 assessment prepared by Logicon Fourth Generation Technology which determined that the current system could not handle the posting of daily TSP updates. Logicon approached the project as a large software development effort using the Information Engineering methodology. The board however said in the RFP that it is not predisposed to any development methodology.

The board also wants to expand the TSP program by providing additional investment fund options for federal employees and it wants to update TSP account information daily instead of monthly.

The Agriculture Department's National Finance Center in New Orleans assists the board in maintaining the existing system and officials expect to retain some role in the new system.

Although the board is an independent agency unfamiliar to many government vendors the RFP is in the hands of some key companies according to Dornan who listed IBM Electronic Data System Corp. PRC Inc. Loral Science Applications International Corp. SRA and Logicon as potential bidders.

Bids are due Sept. 16 and the agency plans to award a contract next January based on a best-value evaluation.

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