NOAA hires satellite support

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials awarded a three-year contract worth up to $9.4 million to two Maryland-based companies for providing information technology and other support services to a division that operates the nation's environmental satellites.

Data Solutions and Technology (DST), based in Lanham, Md., is the prime contractor that will provide services for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). DST's subcontractor is RGII Technologies, based in Annapolis, Md., which previously held the contract with NESDIS for the last half dozen years.

NESDIS operates the government's weather satellites, conducts research and processes and distributes data and images daily primarily to the National Weather Service, which uses it to produce weather advisory forecasts.

Deborah Scott Thomas, DST's president and chief executive officer, said the companies will be developing local-area networks, database management, systems administration and help-desk support, among other services.

NOAA officials are also building a new Satellite Operations Center, which they expect to open in 2005, in Suitland, Md. The center will house computer processing for satellite data to support various sciences. Thomas said the two companies will also assist NESDIS in migrating some information technology services to that new location.

Kathryn Freeland, RGII's CEO, said the companies will provide new technologies and maintenance and operations services. "There's no room for error for the systems being up," she said. "We have to maintain systems on" an around-the-clock basis.

The companies were awarded the performance-based contract Sept. 15 following a competitive bidding process earlier this year. Some of the metrics for performance will center on providing uninterrupted around-the-clock network operations and customer service, such as responding to problems within a certain time frame.

"This is a prototype for the contracting shop at NOAA, and so we are planning on setting standards regarding that," Thomas said. "We're working with the contracting office right now to really see how we are going to measure our metrics exactly."

Freeland also said that security for has tightened since Sept. 11, 2001, especially regarding the division's critical services. She said they have to make certain they perform background checks of contractual employees, secure the physical facilities and IT assets and encrypt more data.

"As requirements have evolved and as clients have become more sophisticated in the way they want to maintain their systems, then it behooved them to make certain that as they went to renegotiate the contract that we had all the security aspects entailed in the new contract as well as making it performance based," she said. "It put a little bit more onus on the contractor to make certain that we are, in fact, meeting the metrics that are now required in the contract."

Both companies are women-owned businesses. RGII is a 14-year-old company providing program management, application development, design and other IT services to nearly a dozen federal agencies. It graduated from the government's 8(a) program for small and disadvantaged businesses in January 2003. DST, which plans to graduate from the 8(a) program early next year, is a 10-year-old company that provides management consulting, support services and financial services.


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