DFAS considers desktop outsourcing

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service may outsource PC and network support for its 18,000 users, according to its chief information officer.

"We're in a "let's try it and see' mode," said Audrey Davis, CIO at DFAS.

Although DFAS has performed a total cost of ownership study and a business case analysis for desktop outsourcing, Davis refused to say whether she is going to recommend to Thomas Bloom, DFAS' director, that he pursue outsourcing.

DFAS has relatively good systems support, and users can access applications throughout the enterprise, Davis said. "I want to do what's right for the taxpayer," she said.

To find roughly how much it costs DFAS to provide PC and network support, Gartner Inc. performed a total cost of ownership study more than a year ago and updated the study this year with 2000 data, Davis said.

According to Gartner, DFAS has a low total cost of ownership and high user satisfaction compared with similar-size companies, Davis said. She wouldn't say how much it costs DFAS to maintain its PCs and networks.

Davis surmised that many users are satisfied because they have low expectations. "If you look at what [many] users were satisfied with, they were happy to have a computer," she said.

The General Services Administration, with Gartner as subcontractor, performed a business case analysis for DFAS earlier this year. "We took our time with our business case analysis," Davis said, because "a lot of people we talked with in the government [who had implemented desktop outsourcing] said they wished they had taken their time" with their business case analyses.

When an agency prepares a thorough business case analysis, it helps vendors that bid for the agency's desktop outsourcing procurement when they prepare their proposals, and it could eliminate some potential misunderstanding between the government and the vendor, Davis said.

Gartner recommended to DFAS officials that they combine the agency's desktop help desks into one, Davis said. She also said that regardless of whether DFAS contracts with a vendor to provide desktop support, agency officials want to have a better inventory of their PCs and servers — also known as asset management.

The agency replaces one-third of its PCs each year, she said.

Davis estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of the people who maintain networks, work on help desks and perform software engineering for the agency are contractors.

"We were looking at it from a direct sourcing and not an A-76 perspective," Davis said of desktop outsourcing. Agency officials have therefore not followed the Office of Management and Budget's A-76 guidelines for outsourced government jobs, she said, because they don't plan to eliminate any jobs.

OMB's Circular A-76 calls for agencies to compare the government's cost of providing a service vs. the cost the private sector would charge for the same service.

Outsourcing could be the wave of the future for DFAS. Following an A-76 study, DFAS on June 15 signed a contract with ACS Government Solutions Group Inc., Rockville, Md., to provide payroll services to 2.5 million military retirees and their annuitants.

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