DOT closes doors of service center

Information Technology Omnibus Procurement

The Transportation Department has disbanded the Transportation Administration Service Center (TASC), a fee-based organization that, among other work, managed the department's $10 billion Information Technology Omnibus Procurement (ITOP) program.

TASC, which came under review following a critical audit by the department's inspector general, has been absorbed into the Office of the Secretary, a top official said.

The inspector general found that fees paid to TASC for administering ITOP did not generate enough revenue to cover its expenses.

On Dec. 29, 2002, the department split TASC into two, transferring the center's functions to the offices of the assistant secretary for administration and the chief information officer, said Kim Taylor, DOT's CIO.

The reorganization includes consolidating infrastructure and reducing operating costs.

TASC is not the only organization to face scrutiny over its handling of a governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), which agencies can use to buy information technology services.

It is "very consistent" with what is happening across the procurement community, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. and a former Air Force procurement executive.

The General Services Administration announced in December 2002 that the agency's Federal Technology Service would no longer manage GWACs. GSA shifted responsibility for developing and maintaining the contracts to the Federal Supply Service.

"I think you're going to see more scrutiny being given to these fee-for-service governmentwide contracts," Mather said.

The April 15, 2002, audit previously prompted DOT officials to forgo seeking an extension of the executive agent designation from the Office of Management and Budget that allowed the department to run ITOP as a GWAC.

Despite that loss of status, DOT continues to offer ITOP within the department for existing and new task orders. Agencies outside DOT also can use the contract under the Economy Act.

"ITOP actually invented the idea of a GWAC," said Steve Kelman, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and now professor of public management at Harvard University's Kennedy School. "The procurement community will always remember the people who initially took the initiative to set up [the contract] as pioneers."

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Finding new homes

The Transportation Department split the Transportation Administration Service Center (TASC) and transferred its functions as follows:

* IT operations — including desktop PCs, telecommunications, network operations, IT security and applications development — moved to the chief information officer's office.

* All of TASC's other duties — including procurement operations, personnel operations, facilities management, and physical and personnel security — went to the assistant secretary's office.

Funding for TASC operations comes from the fees customers pay. That money goes into an account that the assistant secretary for administration will now centrally manage. Additionally, both offices will receive part of the center's budget.

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