GPO gives vendors more time

The Government Printing Office has issued a draft request for proposals for a system that could revolutionize the way the agency distributes government information.

GPO had originally intended to issue a final RFP at this time, but contractors asked for more time to study the requirements.

The draft RFP, which GPO released Dec. 20, seeks a vendor that can build an electronic distribution infrastructure for disseminating government publications. Comments are due by Jan. 19, 2006. GPO officials expect to release a final RFP in March.

Agency officials say GPO's transformation from a 19th-century printing press operation to a 21st-century electronic information agency demands a new publishing and distribution model, one they refer to as the Future Digital System.

The agency plans to hire a company to create an architecture that will verify and track all versions of official government documents. Officials say the system's design will ensure the authenticity of government information and provide permanent public access to it.

The preliminary RFP states that “the U.S. Government Printing Office requires the services of a contractor that will serve as Master Integrator (MI) for building GPO’s Future Digital System (FDsys). The ultimate objective for the MI will be to integrate various components, technology and applications of FDsys functional clusters and subsequently deliver a world-class information life cycle management system.”

GPO held an industry day last fall to let interested vendors review the system requirements and the proposed implementation schedule. GPO officials then asked vendors to provide written feedback and an indication of their interest in participating in the system's development.

GPO officials received more than 100 questions and comments. One vendor suggested that GPO allow more time for suppliers to analyze the project. GPO officials responded by adding a draft RFP comment period, which extends into January so suppliers can enjoy the holidays without deadline pressure.

GPO spokeswoman Veronica Meter said having the additional comment period "will dramatically improve the quality of the final RFP and the quality of the responses, leading us to a better award.”

Soon after the comment period closes, GPO plans to hold a second industry day for companies interested in competing for the award.

Meter said FDsys is still on track to be operational by July 2007. GPO officials expect the system to support Web browsing, downloading and printing. Its components will include search tools and redundant data warehouses.

The draft RFP focuses on the need for an electronic distribution system that can preserve access to government information in perpetuity.

It also specifies the use of open computer architectures, established standards and high-level software languages for all computational and data-processing computer systems to the maximum extent feasible.

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