PBS to outsource systems development

The General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service (PBS) plans to award in September one or more blanket purchase agreements for software development services serving its regional offices throughout the country.

Paul Wohlleben, chief information officer at PBS, said the program, known as the Systems Development Center (SDC), will consolidate and outsource all the organization's systems development and management activities.

"Basically, we are trying to improve the outcomes of our systems projects," Wohlleben said. "The PBS is like a lot of agencies in that it seems to have multiple business partners helping on each project. Each of those companies tends to bring in its own ways of doing business, and the government tries to integrate those pieces. And quite frankly, we don't do a real good job of it.

"PBS is trying to outsource a bit more to industry the job of integrating all of the processes of software development and put them in an accountable position," Wohlleben said.

The systems covered by the SDC contract run applications such as real estate and property management, financial management and logistics.

The BPAs will be based on GSA multiple-award schedule contracts and will run a single year followed by four optional one-year periods. Wohlleben said he envisions using one or more prime contractors supported by teams of subcontractors. He estimated PBS would spend up to $20 million a year on the program.

He added that contractors will be asked to "share risk" with GSA on the procurement by means of an award-fee mechanism. Under this arrangement, GSA would withhold a percentage of the fees charged by contractors and pay it only if the contractors achieve pre-arranged performance levels.

Jack Wise, director of acquisition services at GSA's Federal Technology Service regional office in Philadelphia, said his office will conduct a two-step evaluation under which vendors will first go through a qualification phase and then proceed to "a full-blown competitive process."

Wise said "capability statements" from vendors hoping to compete for the BPA were due last week. He said he had not yet determined when the second phase of the acquisition would begin.

Winning Vendor's Responsibilities

According to GSA's synopsis of the acquisition that was published last month, the winning vendor will be responsible for creating a systems engineering environment to help PBS define and monitor user requirements, deliver systems, share code between systems, remain consistent with the agency's network architecture and keep track of costs. The vendor also will maintain PBS' existing application, technology and local-area network.

In addition, the acquisition calls for services such as feasibility studies and technical analyses, help-desk support, hardware and software configuration management, quality assurance, R&D, training and LAN support.

One vendor, who requested anonymity, expressed concern that the project covers some of the same ground as GSA's Seat Management program for outsourcing desktop management functions. He noted that GSA Administrator David Barram has already committed the agency to use the Seat Management contract and that the PBS project appears to run counter to the agency's plan.

Wohlleben said the PBS project will focus on software development, not on the desktop management services covered by the Seat Management program. He said PBS remains interested in Seat Management and will use it alongside SDC if appropriate.

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