Big savings sway USDA to switch to GSA pact

The Agriculture Department's National Finance Center (NFC) last month switched from its own contract for disaster recovery services to one awarded by the General Services Administration's Federal Systems Integration and Management Center.

Fedsim officials are trumpeting the USDA's switch to its Data Center Disaster Recovery Services pact as proof that its governmentwide contracts can achieve substantial savings over the prices obtained by agencies on their own. The contract was awarded to Comdisco Inc. in 1993 to provide backup services to agencies when data processing operations fail or shut down.

Sources familiar with the deal said the USDA cut its costs for disaster recovery services by almost 50 percent. John Ortego, director of the NFC in New Orleans, declined to comment on how much his agency would save. But he said Comdisco's pricing "was substantially better" than what the center had been paying to SunGard Recovery Services Inc. under an extension of an expired contract with the NFC.

"It was a better price with a competitively awarded contract with a company I know could deliver what we want," Ortego said. "The contract goes through the end of September, but I will have a very strong opportunity to stay with Comdisco after that."

Comdisco officials could not be reached for comment.

Jean Davis, a GSA contracting officer, said she expects to announce this month the winners of the agency's next-generation disaster recovery contract, called the Computer and Communications Recovery Services pact. Sources outside GSA said Comdisco is expected to be among the two or three vendors who will receive new contracts from GSA.

David Krohmal, manager of Fedsim's disaster recovery program, said the deal with the USDA center represents a large piece of business for his program. "The National Finance Center, probably more than any other of our subscribers, is providing service to a large number of other government agencies," Krohmal said. "Comdisco is providing testing and recovery services for a large IBM [Corp.] mainframe environment as well as a couple of IBM RS 6000s."

Krohmal said Comdisco also will provide network recovery and network communications services to the center and will back up its operations for high-volume printing, mailing and microfiche production.

Fedsim awarded the contract to Comdisco for so-called "hot-site" facilities and support personnel to provide processing services in the event of such problems as power outages or computer failures at federal locations. Comdisco operates two facilities in New Jersey— in North Bergen and Carlstadt— for these purposes, Krohmal said. The contract expires at the end of September.

He said agencies pay varying rates for services from Fedsim and Comdisco, depending on the size of the agencies' operations and their requirements. Krohmal and Ortego declined to reveal the amount the USDA will pay to use Fedsim's contract. Users of the contract also pay Fedsim for administrative and quality-control services.

The USDA's contract with SunGard expired late last year, but the company has provided service to the NFC since then on a month-by-month basis. Ortego, a former GSA official who worked on the Fedsim disaster recovery program, said his decision to give his business to Fedsim "was strictly an economic one."

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