HCFA to outsource 4,000 desktops

The Health Care Financing Administration plans to become the first major federal agency—besides agencies that manage outsourcing pacts—to turn over its desktop support responsibilities to a private vendor.

HCFA late last month submitted a task order to outsource hardware and software support for 4,000 desktops through the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN) contract. The decision bolsters the government's effort to persuade agencies to sign on to the seat management concept, sources said last week. NASA and the General Services Administration, which runs its own desktop outsourcing contract—known as Seat Management—have outsourced desktops, but their participation in the programs was expected."At this point, there is a lot of interest [in ODIN], but as far as people saying that they want to sign up, HCFA is the only one," said Jeannie Lee, deputy technical director at GSA's Seat Management program office. Although GSA has its own contract similar to ODIN, the agency also is managing the award process for ODIN task orders that come from outside NASA.

Agencies have been skeptical to sign on to the concept of seat management since GSA first awarded its Seat Management contracts last summer. The Treasury Department this year showed interest in the concept, but the task order it issued on the GSA contract for desktop services covered only 1,600 seats at Treasury headquarters.

Former GSA official John Okay, who now is an independent consultant with J.L. Okay Consulting, Oak Hill, Va., said the few agencies that have expressed interest in seat management before HCFA have approached it on pilot projects that involve only a few hundred users. "Having an agency step forward with 4,000 [desktops] is a healthy sign for the seat management concept," Okay said.

Marianne Bowen, project manager of HCFA's desktop replacement initiative, said the agency opted for seat management as a way to obtain better control of service levels at the desktop; to improve asset management; to refresh hardware and software technology in a more timely manner; and to become more organized in its adoption of new technologies.

Bowen added that she expects the agency to save money by eliminating the need for HCFA employees to spend time on desktop operational activities.

HCFA selected ODIN because it required less of a commitment than GSA's Seat Management, Bowen said. For example, the GSA program would have required HCFA to turn over its local-area network services to a contractor within a period that HCFA was not willing to consider, she said.

"We wanted to jump in up to our ankles as opposed to up to our necks," Bowen said.

Mark Hagerty, the ODIN program manager, said vendors' proposals have been received, and an award is expected in mid- to late June. He said he did not know which of the seven companies that were awarded ODIN contracts bid on the task order. HCFA and GSA personnel will jointly evaluate the responses, he said.

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