ATF awards leasing pact to Unisys

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms last month awarded a blanket purchase agreement for seat management services worth up to $30 million to Unisys Corp.'s Federal Systems Division. A Unisys spokesman said the company will provide equipment and services including PCs notebooks printers servers communications products network management training help desk and other maintenance support from General Services Administration schedule contracts. ATF will lease the hardware and software which will include Dell Computer Corp. PCs Micron Electronics Inc. laptops Unisys Aquanta servers Cisco Systems Inc. networking products and Hewlett-Packard Co. printers. Unisys' Global Customer Services organization will provide maintenance support.

Terry Holtman the Unisys program manager who worked on the BPA said he believes the deal is the first to offer seat management - in which the government not only leases equipment but relies on contractors to manage it as well - to a federal agency on a grand scale. It will cover 220 ATF sites nationwide and will run through at least 1999 - longer if GSA extends the schedule pacts associated with the BPA.

Shooting for Pentium Upgrades

Holtman said ATF chose a seat management approach as a way to upgrade the desktop systems of its users - most of whom still use outmoded 286-based computers - to Pentium levels. "They had been stuck with very old technology like many federal agencies " he said. "They wanted to structure a procurement that would allow them to go to one major update [from 286 to Pentium] but ensure they would not be stuck with old technology again.

"Federal agencies often get caught with this old stuff " he continued. "It's difficult for them to get enough acquisition dollars to replace all of their computers in one wave. And interoperability and connectivity [are] so important it just doesn't make sense to have some people on 286s and some on Pentiums."

Holtman said the seat management deal will allow ATF to upgrade all its desktop within the first three months of the deal. "At that point every user in the ATF will be at least on Pentiums running [Microsoft Corp.'s] Windows 95 and Office 97 " he said.

As new products become available on the GSA schedule Unisys plans to make them available to ATF through the BPA Holtman added.

ATF officials could not be reached for comment.

The BPA represents the latest instance of a federal agency embracing the concept of leasing products and services. This fall GSA released a solicitation for governmentwide seat management services and NASA also has explored the concept this year with solicitations of its own.

Mary Whitley deputy assistant commissioner at GSA's Office of Information Technology Integration said she believes more agencies will buy IT through seat management contracts in the coming year.

"We think it's a way of buying...whose time has come " Whitley said. "We would like to proliferate the idea of looking at desktop technologies as a utility."

She added that she does not view programs such as the one at ATF as competitors with GSA's program."I think they can co-exist " she said. "This just shows that other agencies are agreeing with us. They are using seat management to support their own operations and we are offering our services as an option to those that don't want to invest their resources on doing [seat management procurements] by themselves."An industry source said Unisys beat out Government Technology Services Inc. and Telos Corp. for the BPA.

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