GSA tailors tool suite for mobile work force

The General Services Administration plans to unveil this summer a new "product line" of information technology equipment and services specifically designed for mobile government workers and telecommuters.

The offering, dubbed Anywhere Office, includes a range of computing and communications equipment and services. GSA will tailor the packages to the needs of disaster-response teams, census takers, law enforcement officials, quality control personnel and others working outside a traditional office setting.

Although GSA has not yet worked out the details, officials expect Anywhere Office to be available through the multiple-award schedule (MAS) program.

A Typical Package

William Gormley, assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Service (FSS), said a typical package might be a government vehicle equipped with a cellular phone, fax machine and laptop computer.

"We are not interested in designing any specific Anywhere Office because everybody's requirements are different," Gormley said. "But we could, for example, have vendors list line items for Anywhere Office in their schedule contracts. It would probably be provided by an integrator of some sort."

Pat Mead, assistant commissioner for contract management at FSS, said she has been working on the Anywhere Office concept with representatives from GSA's Federal Technology Service and the Public Buildings Service. She said the project will probably be a "cross-service" effort at GSA, with FSS handling procurement, FTS contributing IT expertise and PBS holding the marketing responsibility.

She also said GSA will formally unveil the new product line July 8 at its Products and Services Expo in Seattle.

Ron Hack, director of systems and telecommunications management at the Commerce Department, said he believes "the time is right" for a program like Anywhere Office. "We're having more and more people who need to work away from the office," he said. "For GSA to provide a turnkey approach to that is a viable service."

GSA Administrator David Barram met last week with vendors to discuss the program. According to a document disseminated at the meeting, GSA officials have been "surveying all federal government agencies to determine the number of mobile workers and the kind of work they do." The survey will help GSA develop a set of standard packages that could cover the range of requirements of mobile workers.

Olga Grkavac, senior vice president with the Information Technology Association of America's Systems Integration Division, said the idea may have some potential, but GSA needs to provide details on whether such packages should be part of the MAS program or available through other contracts.

"We think technology now affords so many choices to workers, and we would support anything that makes it more available to them," Grkavac said. "But we don't know yet what contract vehicles ought to make that available."

Mary Whitley, deputy assistant commissioner of GSA's Office of Information Technology Integration, said her organization also will participate in the Anywhere Office endeavor by working as a consultant to agencies trying to determine which package may be best-suited to their needs.

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