Agency sees reward of management labor

Outsourcing management of the desktop computing environment is proving to have a direct impact on the way the agency uses information technology to support its work force, according to officials at one agency.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of the Inspector General last month became the third agency to award a task order under the General Services Administration's Seat Management outsourcing contract.

The HUD OIG's office is a good example of an agency looking to the seat management contract not as the means to cut down on operating costs but more as a way to improve employees' ability to perform their missions, said William Stine, project manager at the agency. "Seat provides us a significant increase in capability...for about a 6 to 7 percent increase in cost," Stine said. That small jump in the budget will be more than made up by the increased capabilities HUD OIG plans to provide its employees as part of the project, Stine said. For example, all the auditors will receive new laptops, a secure network connection back to the office and a new auditing application - all on top of the usual seat management offerings, such as around-the-clock help desk and maintenance support.

"I think what [the OIG task order] is doing is broadening the scope and capability of agencies to come to seat management," said Matt Curtis, president of DynCorp TechServ LLC, the office's seat management contractor. "I think you're going to see customers pushing the limits of Seat."

The office started out last year with meetings at headquarters and in five offices across the country for employees to contribute their ideas of what the OIG needed. The basic problem for the auditors turned out to be that they spend much of their time on the move, inspecting problem housing units in areas where their systems need to be extremely secure.

"We did a pretty extensive requirements analysis and determined we had a pretty high need for security and also anytime-anywhere access," Stine said. "Now, those are pretty hard requirements to meet at the same time." The office turned to seat management because it did not have people in-house with the ability to award and manage contracts that could meet all these requirements.

"We didn't want to invest in the expertise to do that," Stine said. "If we can invest in a small group of people to oversee an integrated contract, why would we want a larger group of people to oversee several contracts?"

The HUD OIG did hire several people needed to bolster its technical capabilities - an operations manager, a network manager and a security manager - who came on in time to help the GSA Seat Management program office with the proposal evaluations.

In the end, the office awarded DynCorp TechServ a 10-year, $50.9 million task order. The contract is structured with a two-year base and four two-year options to match the technology refresh the office wants, Stine said.

The biggest job for DynCorp TechServ will fall on its subcontractor, GTE Internetworking, which is putting together the virtual private network that will provide the auditors a completely secure connection from the field.

"You've got end-to-end encryption of the network and encryption of the laptop and complete backup on the laptop that occurs every time the employee connects to the network," Stine said.

Each of the 700 employees also will get a new laptop with Intel Corp.'s Pentium II 366 MHz processor and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT from Micron Government Systems to replace their old Pentium 133 and 350 MHz desktops.

The HUD OIG is planning to start piloting the implementation at year's end, with deployment starting in January.

On a departmentwide basis, the HUD Office of Information Technology will watch the OIG's implementation carefully, said Jeffrey Smith, deputy director of IT.

But the office will not look seriously at outsourcing contracts for the entire department until their current outsourcing contract expires in May 2003, he said.

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