GSA to use Seat Management for its offices

The General Services Administration is taking a stand behind its Seat Management program, becoming the first federal agency to announce plans to outsource its desktop systems, maintenance and support worldwide.

Speaking at a GSA subcontracting forum last week, GSA Administrator David Barram, Federal Technology Service Commissioner Dennis Fischer and Chief Information Officer Shereen Remez also said they plan to spend up to $750,000 on a national marketing campaign to convince federal agencies to use the GSA contract to outsource everything from the agencies' desktop computers to upgrades and help desks.

GSA awarded the estimated $9 billion worth of Seat Management contracts last month to eight vendors, signaling what it billed as a radical departure from how the government traditionally has managed and purchased desktop PCs. The vendors— Wang Government Services, Multimax Inc., Litton/PRC Inc., EER Systems, IBM Global Services Inc., Federal Data Corp., TechServ (a subsidiary of DynCorp formed specifically for this contract) and Science Applications International Corp.— will be responsible for maintaining agencies' desktop computers and local-area networks, upgrading hardware and software and providing help-desk and other support services.

GSA plans to use the Seat Management contract in each of its offices by the end of next year. The agency will put together a task order in the next six weeks covering more than 14,000 workstations and laptops in GSA headquarters, FTS offices and other GSA sites in the Washington, D.C., area, Remez said.

In the next year, the Seat Management rollout will cover the East Coast and gradually will move to the West Coast, Japan and Germany, putting in place a single architecture regardless of office, region or country, she said.

"For us it will provide a single point of contact," Remez said. "It will give us the ability to deliver efficient service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, anywhere.... We will let the businesses do what they do best so we can concentrate on our core mission and responsibilities."

Leading by Example

Fischer noted that GSA's pioneer status on the contract is "absolutely essential" to its success. If GSA is to convince other agencies to use the program, it must be able to point to an agency where the program is working, he said.

Surveys and reports have shown many agencies are cautious about outsourcing desktop hardware, software and support, citing fear of budget cuts and the uncertainty of turning desktop management over to a third party. A survey conducted last month by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management found that 85 percent of agencies surveyed said they either did not plan or had yet to decide to outsource desktops.

Acknowledging the reluctance to immediately buy off the Seat Management contract, GSA's initial marketing push will not be to convince agencies to buy seat management but just to let them know what it is and what it is not, Fischer said.

Seat management "is not nationally recognized in government," Fischer said. "It is a managed life cycle...where the contractor serves as the integrator. It is not leasing."

GSA's planned marketing campaign should help the agency sell the Seat Management program to the federal government, said Robert Guerra, president of Guerra & Associates, Fairfax, Va. But he warned that GSA must send the right message in order for the campaign to work. "[Agencies] need to know when to do outsourcing. Right now [the program] is a solution looking for a problem."

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