ODIN opens to all feds

The General Services Administration and NASA will sign an agreement this week opening the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN) contract to all government agencies and increasing its value up to $5 billion from almost $1 billion.

Originally ODIN was intended to outsource hardware software and support services for all of NASA's 50 000 PCs which is similar to the Seat Management program GSA's Information Technology Integration center is putting together to offer to the government. Under the agreement being signed this week ITI will handle all orders for ODIN services originating from outside NASA.

Orders originating from within NASA will be processed by the agency's own contracting personnel. Meanwhile ITI will continue its work on its series of Seat Management contracts. Wanda Smith director of ITI's Seat Management Division said the deal would give GSA customers an additional option for meeting their desktop outsourcing requirements and allow the two agencies to share personnel and resources. "We've agreed to share a lot of the lessons we've learned " Smith said.

Lee Holcomb NASA's chief information officer said the partnership will give GSA's customers "a richer set of options. And it's a way for us to be sure we're doing outsourcing right. We can learn from each other."

Both agencies expect to award their contracts in spring 1998. Smith said GSA has been working with NASA since it kicked off ODIN in an attempt to merge the two programs. But both sides ultimately agreed that the differences in the programs merited continuation of both.

Agencies that have desktop requirements similar to NASA's may prefer to order off ODIN while agencies with different needs will be able to purchase more customized services from the Seat Management contracts Smith said.

"GSA prepared a very broad document that could service all federal agencies " she said. "But NASA went to all of its centers and defined three classes of general-purpose computers three classes of scientific computers and two classes of maintenance [to include in ODIN]."

Skip Kemerer head of the Multiservices/ADP Procurement Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said his agency's partnership with GSA was formed after officials from the two agencies agreed that ODIN could become a viable governmentwide vehicle with GSA officials handling non-NASA purchases. "[NASA and GSA have] two different approaches to outsourcing and both of them made sense for different reasons " Kemerer said. "NASA does not want to be in the business of taking business from GSA. If we put another governmentwide vehicle out there [besides Seat Management] then there may be some competition."

Distinct Differences Holcomb said that while the goal of each vehicle is to provide outsourced desktop-computing services each has distinct differences. While GSA's approach allows vendors to stipulate more details such as defining the equipment and services that together make up a "seat " NASA's ODIN contract will permit outsourcing for specific pre-defined configurations he said.

Carl Peckinpaugh a lawyer with Winston & Strawn in Washington D.C. and a Federal Computer Week columnist said this is the first instance he is aware of in which GSA plans to manage a portion of a governmentwide contract for another agency. But Peckinpaugh said GSA's traditional role as a provider of goods and services to federal agencies would prompt it to want to maintain control of this type of contract vehicle.

"From GSA's perspective if they can't make any money off it they still don't want anyone else doing it " he said. "How could it possibly be better to go through GSA and then NASA to get to the vendor? I can't conceive how this is helpful to anyone."

Sterling Phillips vice president of corporate marketing at FDC Technologies said his company submitted a bid for the first phase of the Seat Management competition last month. Although he said he recognized the similarities between that project and ODIN he said his company would bid on both.

"In one sense they are looking for the same services " Phillips said. "But I'm sure NASA has tailored the ODIN [request for proposals] to their users. From what I understand NASA's statement of work will not change by virtue of it being a [governmentwide acquisition contract]. It sounds like NASA is in no way diluting its requirements."

Officials at Electronic Data Systems Corp. said they plan to bid on both contracts. Dave McGill director of GSA business development at the company acknowledged that the ODIN procurement could have been accomplished as a task order under the GSA contracts. But he added that customers with outsourcing requirements that match NASA's might be well served by ODIN.

However analyst Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. called the agreement "another instance of duplicated effort" that would lead to excessive procurement-related costs. He added that he believes agencies should conduct their own procurements and GSA should conduct procurements such as Seat Management only for small agencies without the resources to award their own contracts.

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