NASA begins cooking up SEWP III

NASA has begun preliminary planning for a follow-on to its popular $1.8 billion governmentwide contract for workstations, peripherals and networking gear.

The Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement III (SEWP III) contract would replace the 2-year-old SEWP II, which NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center awarded to 14 vendors in the fall of 1996. SEWP II, which expires in November 2000, has generated $650 million in total orders as of last week and has a ceiling of $1.8 billion.

Joe Barksdale, SEWP trail boss, said NASA will spend the next six months hammering out the details of SEWP III, but preliminary planning has begun. He said officials are determining if some of NASA's future needs could be met under the massive Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN), a governmentwide contract worth up to $13 billion which allows agencies to privatize the desktop environment by outsourcing the acquisition and management of desktops.

NASA, however, determined that SEWP II has driven cost reductions for the agency on scientific and engineering workstations, a factor that has convinced officials they need a follow-on contract, he said. "We're going through a number of determinations," Barksdale said. "The probability is high that SEWP III will go [forward]."

SEWP II has been very alluring to purchasers inside and outside NASA because of its electronic ordering process, quick delivery turnaround times and low surcharges. In two years, orders for SEWP II bypassed the first SEWP contract, which amassed $500 million in orders over four years.

Hampton Edwards, IBM's SEWP II program executive, said industry and agency interest in a SEWP II follow-on would be high.

However, he noted that NASA's evolving philosophy of outsourcing the bulk of its requirements not required for its core space and science mission may prevent SEWP III from meeting the phenomenal ordering boom established by SEWP II.

"They will meet the bulk of their requirements using ODIN," Edwards said.

However, Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va., said the jury is still out on agency response to desktop outsourcing. As marketplace support for a SEWP follow-on, he pointed to agency estimates supplied to the Office of Management and Budget indicating that computer hardware purchases would increase about 6 percent to $3.9 billion in fiscal 1999. "I don't see any letup in demand for those type of solutions," Dornan said.

Dennis Callahan, SEWP II program manager at Hewlett-Packard Co., said NASA's needs are more broad than what the ODIN procurement will be able to provide. "ODIN is pretty clearly a desktop procurement," Callahan said.

"A lot of the mission-critical operations in NASA would still rather control their own platforms."

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