AMS, KPMG, Lockheed vie for NASA deal

NASA has narrowed the field to three vendors for a 15-year contract that will provide an agencywide integrated core financial management system using commercial software packages. The project is thought to be among the first in the federal government to integrate systems supporting various financial functions into a single system.

American Management Systems Inc. KPMG Peat Marwick and Lockheed Martin Corp. were tapped last month as part of a mandatory down-select for the Integrated Financial Management Program (IFMP) contract. The three were chosen from among more than 100 companies on the original bidders' list including financial management and federal information technology powerhouses such as Price Waterhouse Arthur Andersen Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. BDM Federal Inc. Computer Sciences Corp. Scientific Applications International Corp. and Unisys Corp.'s Federal Systems Division.

Under IFMP which is to be awarded later this year NASA will acquire commercial off-the-shelf software for seven core areas that will be used to support NASA's entire 20 000-member civil service population. The system also will manage NASA's centers and its annual budget appropriation of approximately $13 billion.

NASA contract and program officials declined to comment on IFMP. However NASA did announce that vendors must either be on the General Services Administration's Financial Management Schedule or have already completed the software capabilities verification process for the GSA schedule in 1996 to qualify for the award.

Seven Core Functions

NASA plans to acquire software packages in core financial functions including budget execution travel procurement employee time and attendance budget formulation policy-making and asset management. Vendors also have been asked to include in their proposals appropriate hardware to support the software packages. All seven software packages will be integrated into a single financial management system.

The nature of NASA's program makes it difficult to assign a value to the firm fixed-price contract said Ken Asbury Lockheed Martin's vice president of business development. NASA has not published an estimated value and the three vendors were selected based upon technical proposals past performance and experience. One vendor however estimated that the contract will be worth at least $25 million and could far exceed that amount.

Implementation and Integration

In the next phase of the procurement the three vendors will assess and determine how they will implement and integrate their software within each of NASA's centers and provide a cost proposal. Based upon this phase an award will be made and the system is scheduled to be fully operational two years later.

While other agencies have procured financial management software for selected functions NASA is one of the first to integrate all financial functions into one system Asbury said.

"It's a healthy-sized program " he said. "We're basically selling them a turnkey solution. We're flying new territory...at least for this customer."

Asbury said Lockheed Martin's systems integration skills and the subcontractor team it has assembled for the project are the company's strengths in the bidding process.

"We went out and got [the] best-of-breed in COTS products " he said. "Our systems integration skills are pretty strong. We're already at...almost every NASA center with a few exceptions."

Another vendor associated with the procurement said that the acquisition is extremely complex and that the competing vendors are being asked to provide a firm fixed price in a very short amount of time without much direction from NASA officials.

"The vendor is assuming enormous risk in tackling this procurement " he said. "There's been very little substantial dialogue between the government and the vendor community as to what they really need...and the schedule is getting tighter and tighter. You are looking at 10 NASA centers [which] are operating unique and diverse applications. In order to [have a firm fixed-priced] a bid to do a replacement you need to know what you're replacing."

The monumental task of integrating financial systems has plagued the federal government for years said Bob Dornan senior vice president of McLean Va.-based Federal Sources Inc. Many agencies such as the Defense Department are having difficulty taking inventory of the thousands of financial management systems they have in place which is only the first step toward an integrated system. "NASA is like some other agencies " Dornan said. "They're highly decentralized each of the facilities has a mind of its own. To get them to work together is an uphill battle."

Focus on Agencywide Solutions

IFMP was initiated in 1995 by NASA's chief financial officer Arnold Holtz as part of a goal to launch common agencywide solutions for many of NASA's business and administrative processes. The Office of Management and Budget also influenced the procurement with directions to agencies to adopt financial systems that are compliant with the Joint Financial Management Information Program a multiple-agency effort to improve government financial management practices.

The program also was prompted in part by the 1995 cancellation of NASA's Accounting and Financial Information System contract held by CSC.

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