NIMA contractors gaining on feds

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"Redrawing the map"

By fiscal 2003, contractors will outnumber the government employees working at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, a trend that NIMA's director said will continue in the future.

Speaking at an April 9 asymmetric warfare symposium sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army, NIMA Director James Clapper Jr. said the agency has been hit by some retirement attrition, but planned for it and sought personnel that were going to "age out" and encouraged them to come right back to work as contractors.

"We dovetail that [attrition] with the expansion of the contractor community, and I think that's the way to do it," Clapper told FCW. "By fiscal 2003, [full-time equivalents] will exceed the government workforce and that trend will continue, which I think is appropriate."

A major part of the agency's growing FTE population is an information technology and services contract awarded in December 2001 to the joint venture corporation NJVC LLC in Vienna, Va.

The goal of the NJVC contract is to modernize NIMA's IT infrastructure to support high-performance operations. The initiative is intended to introduce commercial practices and technology while reducing costs.

If all options are exercised, the annually renewable contract has a potential term of 15 years and value of $2.2 billion. The phased preferential procurement allows NIMA to control the transition while offering current employees continued career opportunities with NJVC by timing the transition to retirement eligibility.

During the next five to seven years, about 600 NIMA employees could voluntarily leave government positions and accept contract positions with NJVC. About 300 positions will be affected in the Washington, D.C., area and about 300 in the St. Louis/Arnold, Mo. area, according to NIMA.

The NJVC contract, which was supposed to be awarded in September 2001, but was delayed due to the events of Sept. 11, provides NIMA with long-term IT-related support in seven areas: printing, digital replication, networks, distributed and centralized systems, operational help desk, voice and video, and library research services.

The agency will consolidate the work from a dozen or more existing contracts under this effort.

In other NIMA news, Clapper said the agency has the worst infrastructure of any U.S. intelligence agency and is in the preliminary planning stages of consolidating all of its East Coast operations and facilities. He said the agency is "engaged in an economic analysis," but no funds have been allocated and no site has been chosen.

"It's a long-term thing we want to do," Clapper said, adding that having personnel scattered throughout the Washington, D.C., area and the East Coast is makes protecting NIMA's people and assets extremely difficult.

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