NASA outsourcing needs consistency

NASA

An inconsistent approach has plagued attempts to use outside vendors to manage desktop computers for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, according to a new report.

After studying the agency's purchases from November 2001 to March 2003, the inspector general's office for NASA released a report on July 18 that identified three major weaknesses in the space agency's Outsourcing Desktop Initiative: overpriced products, missed chances for volume discounts and inconsistent purchasing approaches throughout the agency.

In 1998, NASA awarded the $1.3 billion desktop deal, that will run through June 21, 2007, to seven companies. The master contract allows agency installations to buy desktop, server and communication services to any of the companies.

A lack of agency-wide guidelines has caused the program to operate at a costlier level than expected, the inspector general's office said. NASA recently ordered the outsourcing program office to unify buying criteria for all NASA installations.

To battle overpricing, the inspector general's office recommended that contracting officers review catalog prices and document the results. Officials plan to issue review guidelines by July 31. NASA already has recovered $9,000 in excess payments related to a purchase made for agency headquarters.

NASA officials now have procedures for including draft volume discount provisions in all future delivery orders.

Had the initiative's vendor catalog been optional rather than mandatory, some installations could have saved an average of 29 percent by buying through cheaper contractors who were not part of the outsourcing program, according to the report. The agency recently designated the outsourcing initiative's catalogs as optional for buying computer peripherals, rather than a mandatory source.

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