NASA system may fly at Justice
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jul 10, 2000
NASA's pioneering World Wide Web-based site for procurement officials has
sparked interest at the Justice Department as a way to make the move from
file cabinets to e-procurement.
NASA's Virtual Procurement Office (VPO) offers contracting specialists
a resource on governmentwide and NASA procurement regulations and a tool
for building and tracking solicitations.
"We've got to have some automation, or we'll drown in the paperwork,"
said Melissa Richardson, assistant director of Justice's procurement services
staff. NASA officials described the initiative June 28 at a Justice conference
intended to update the department's contract managers about the latest procurement
rules and regulations, contract vehicles and approaches. The discussion
also included the General Services Administration's online auction.
As a result of the educational exchange, Richardson said she plans to
invite interested Justice procurement officials to meet with NASA representatives
to review NASA's VPO up close and discuss the possibility of adapting it
to the Justice Department's needs.
"If we like it and fully understand other associated costs to operate
and maintain it, I believe it has tremendous possibility in helping us streamline
processes, track data close to real time and, most importantly, free up
the time of the procurement professional to work closer with the customer
to formulate strategies that yield sound and cost- reasonable results,"
NASA developed VPO with such adaptation in mind, said Jim Bradford,
NASA Acquisition Internet Service project leader at Marshall Space Flight
NASA's goal was to create online procurement tools — from creating a
solicitation to posting it to interacting with the vendor — that are standard
enough for the entire government to use, he said. Bradford and Tom Deback,
VPO team leader and a procurement analyst at NASA headquarters in Washington,
D.C., spoke at the Department of Justice Acquisition Conference.
Federal agencies need to follow the commercial model for doing business
and have the capability to conduct more acquisitions electronically, said
Robyn Dyson Towles, deputy director of Justice's Acquisition Management
"We can no longer afford to be just in the acquisition business. We
have to be a solutions business," Towles said. Customers do not care about
the process used to make purchases; they just want to reach the end result
efficiently, she said.
"We have to look at the tools that assist us in automating the process
so we can do our job faster, smarter, cheaper," a variation of the faster,
better, cheaper philosophy at NASA, Towles said.
In its second phase of VPO, the space agency plans to add capabilities
such as individual log-ons that will identify the procurement official using
the system, help track an individual's documents and enable him or her to
log on once and use any procurement application, Deback said.