Mint preps IT upgrade

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"Comparing seats"

The U.S. Mint is seeking bids for three major contracts to upgrade and better manage its information technology, including a desktop outsourcing pact for 2,200 desktops — a 10-year project that could be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Mint officials say they drew up the proposal in an effort to get the "biggest bang for the buck" and to make use of some of the newest buying strategies for saving money. They declined to put a price tag on the solicitation, saying they wanted vendors to come up with their own pricing.

Coleen Vogel, the Mint's deputy chief financial officer, said the project to overhaul the agency's infrastructure would save money and reduce the number of government IT workers needed to run the systems. It would make it easier to run the agency because the contractor — not the government — would be responsible for any technology problems and planning.

"Seat management takes the responsibility away from government having to worry about technology changing," Vogel said. "Because you are relying more on the contractor, you are relying less on internal experts to manage the contractors." The three-pronged approach includes contracts for data-center services, communications, and hardware and software. One vendor could win all three contracts. The deadline for proposals is July 10, and the awards are scheduled for early August.

"We are also hoping to make this more performance-based, and we're hoping that in the future, it is going to allow us all of the other benefits of performance-based standards," said Jacqueline Petillo, program manager in the Office of Information Technology.

Mint officials decided to solicit vendors on their own instead of using existing contracts — such as the General Services Administration's IT schedule, GSA's Seat Management program or the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA — because they believe they can get a better seat management deal that way, Vogel said.

Joe Giuliani, the Mint's contract director, said the agency is targeting vendors with seat management experience. "We did some market research to try to discover who are the seat players," he said. On June 13, 11 vendors were invited to a private bidding conference to discuss what Mint officials want. An estimated 20 vendors are interested in submitting proposals, he said.

The Mint's commitment to seat management comes just a month after GSA decided it would not extend its seat management order under its own governmentwide contract.

"As usual, there's no government seat management policy," said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. "There's a lot of good reasons for a seat management approach. Conceptually, it's sound, and I think you'll see more successful ones as government and contractors get more familiar with it."

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