There's more than one way to outsource

NASA officials took a different approach to its Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN) contract. Whereas the Navy selected one vendor to roll out NMCI to 360,000 shore-based users, NASA allowed 10 ODIN vendors to bid for delivery orders at each of the decentralized space agency's 10 centers.

Each NASA center awarded ODIN seat-management delivery orders only after performing due diligence and defining technology requirements, said Mark Hagerty, NASA's ODIN program manager.

NASA officials wanted to ensure that the winning vendors knew the complex technical environment that each center operates — which includes Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating systems and Unix systems from at least five vendors — before they won a delivery order, Hagerty said. "We wanted to make sure their eyes were wide open," he said.

Although Navy officials decided they could save a lot of money and improve system performance and security by using only a few standard PC and network configurations, NASA gave individual users more power. Users generally can still use the operating systems they used before ODIN, Hagerty said.

The lowest bidder only won one of the 10 ODIN delivery orders because NASA officials were mainly concerned about ensuring they'd get the best value and operational effectiveness from ODIN, he said. NASA probably has a higher percentage of scientific or power users, which made them adopt the decentralized ODIN approach, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting at Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va. "The Department of the Navy has a lot of roll-up-your-sleeves, pragmatic-oriented commands," he said.

With its service-level agreements and performance-based contracting features, NMCI is "more a solution for managing [the Navy's] total IT strategy," compared with ODIN, said Robert Guerra, president of Robert J. Guerra and Associates, Oakton, Va. "ODIN is more tactical. It's nothing more than seat management with telephony at the desktop level."


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