HCFA joins desktop outsourcing ranks

The Health Care Financing Administration last week awarded a task order to Boeing Information Services Inc. to provide turnkey desktop computer services, adding momentum to the federal government's fledgling seat management initiative.

The $50 million, three-year pact, awarded off the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN) contract and managed by the General Services Administration, also will help HCFA develop a common computing environment in which common equipment and software should make it easier for agency workers to share information internally, HCFA officials said.

"For the first time ever, we'll be in a situation where we have a common computing environment," said Mike Odachowski, director of internal customer support at HCFA. "It'll improve our connectivity with our partners and our customers in our service to the beneficiary."

Marianne Bowen, manager of the agency's Desktop Replacement Initiative, said the outsourcing project also will bring the added benefit of Year 2000 compliance for HCFA desktops. The agency now uses a hodgepodge of systems, including recent Pentium-class computers and older machines with 486 processors.

The HCFA task order calls on Boeing to serve as the custodian for the agency's desktop computers. The company will upgrade the computers when needed to make sure desktop software is current and offer some help-desk services to HCFA users.

Boeing's award covers close to 4,000 desktops at HCFA, said Charles Self, assistant commissioner of the Federal Technology Service's Office of Information Technology Integration at GSA.

Bowen said HCFA will complete the outsourcing of its desktops to Boeing by Sept. 30. The agency met with the vendor last week to begin mapping out the outsourcing plan, she said, and by the middle of July the first wave of new desktops should be in place.

"I think the challenge is to get it done prior to the Year 2000," said James L. Smith, vice president of NASA programs for Boeing. Smith said IBM Corp. will serve as the hardware supplier to Boeing.

Boeing's work, however, does not include managing HCFA's local-area networks. "We wanted to be in a position where we still retained control over our IT environment," Bowen said.

She said HCFA chose Boeing because its proposal was technically superior to other proposals received from ODIN vendors. NASA selected seven vendors for the ODIN contract. Bowen declined to reveal how many of the vendors submitted proposals for the HCFA project.

The HCFA award marks only the second time that an agency has tapped another agency's contract for seat management services. Earlier this month, the Treasury Department selected Wang Government Services for a 10-year, $88 million task order to manage PCs for about 1,600 employees at Treasury's headquarters. That award was made off of GSA's Seat Management contract.

Seat Management and NASA's ODIN contract are the only major contract vehicles that agencies can use to outsource management of their desktops.

Before Treasury's award, no agency besides GSA had used the contract. Similarly, none besides NASA had used the ODIN contract for desktop outsourcing, Self said.

The recent seat management awards represent significant momentum for desktop outsourcing contracts, said former GSA official John Okay, an independent consultant with J.L. Okay Consulting, Oak Hill, Va. "I think that this is another positive step for the concept of seat management," he said. "It's another validation that the basic idea is a good one."

Other agencies are seriously considering seat management contracts. Commerce Department chief information officer Alan Balutis said last week at a meeting of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management that Commerce may follow Treasury's lead.

Okay said agencies have been slow to embrace seat management because it represents a major change in doing business.

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