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"Rethinking Plan B"

One resource available to agencies is the General Services Administration's Disaster Recovery Services program, which features services from IBM Corp. and SunGard Recovery Services LP.

Awarded in 1998 at a value of $140 million, the Disaster Recovery Services contract is administered by the Federal Computer Acquisition Center (FEDCAC), which this fall will look to put at least one other vendor on the contract, officials say.

Despite the post-Sept. 11 fixation on preparedness, FEDCAC officials report no spike in purchasing from its central Disaster Recovery Services contract. Instead, officials claim the vehicle has always gotten plenty of use and that so far, more than 60 agencies have used it to meet disaster recovery needs.

"This isn't new, by any means," said Tony Guerra, FEDCAC security team leader. "Requirements for having plans in place have been around for some time. If anything, it is now much clearer that an agency without a plan is an agency that is going to be in trouble."

Yet, executives at IBM and SunGard say they detect a difference in the requests for information coming out of agencies lately.

"What I am seeing is a change in the types of information being requested, which have expanded in scope," said Brent Woodworth, segment manager of IBM's crisis response team.

For example, in the past, an agency might have queried IBM on a single, limited service, Woodworth said. "Now, they are saying, 'Hey IBM, I want to tell you what my broad needs are and you tell me how your solutions may fit that broader base of needs.' "

Now available on the Disaster Recovery Services contract are a variety of solutions, including new mirroring services, mainframe or advanced server backup solutions and networking services to build in redundancy, Woodworth said.

These broader agency inquiries may point to the importance of vendor relationships during disasters. "Government has a tendency to have a hands-off relationship with vendors to prevent favoritism," said Bill Keller, vice president of consulting at Gartner Inc. "But when disaster strikes, agencies better have a good relationship with those vendors, because they are going to need them like never before,"

Comdisco Inc. also held a place on the contract until SunGard purchased the company's business continuity assets last November. The $850 million transaction took place after a district court denied a Justice Department antitrust suit lodged against the acquisition.

Another centralized vehicle is the Federal Technology Service's Safeguard Program, which is aimed at critical information protection but includes offerings in the area of emergency preparedness. CACI International Inc. is one of 30 contractors available on Safeguard.

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