VA drops Peaches 3 plan for governmentwide vehicle

The Veterans Affairs Department today announced it has dropped plans for its next-generation departmentwide contract to purchase hardware and software and instead opted to use NASA’s Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement contract vehicle.

The move reflects the Bush administration’s goal of moving agencies toward governmentwide contracts and away from departmentwide contracts, said Gary Shaffer, VA’s director of IT capital execution in the department CIO’s policy, plans and program office.

VA evaluated the cost that it would incur by building its Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software, known as Peaches 3, contract versus the cost of transferring to the new SEWP contract and a partner.

“The cost benefit—there’s no question. It’s worthwhile for the VA to do it. Government agencies should share costs rather than everybody buying [on] their own separately,” Shaffer said.

VA plans to purchase storage, networks, security, Internet protocol communications, health care automation, documentation and data services with the next contract vehicle. VA’s current Peaches 2 contract expires in April 2007.

VA is encouraging potential contractors to consider participating in the SEWP IV acquisition. Proposals for SEWP-IV, however, are due Aug. 7, according to procurement documents.

The move to SEWP was one of the recommendations of LMI Government Consulting of McLean, Va., which VA hired in December to analyze the most effective type of procurement vehicle for the department’s needs. VA at that time delayed a request for proposals for its planned Peaches 3 because then-CIO Robert McFarland said it
lacked adequate provisions for accountability and reporting so managers can better determine IT needs. VA had estimated that Peaches 3 could be worth up to $4.2 billion over five years, McFarland had said.

One of the things VA liked about SEWP is its reporting system.

“Accountability is one of the real reasons we’re using SEWP. They have a fabulous system,” he said.

For example, SEWP can provide reports that account for every printer purchased by the VA in the last six months and to what locations they were delivered.

“I couldn’t even come close to doing that on Peaches 2, nor would I have been able to do it on Peaches 3,” Shaffer said.

VA plans an orderly transition, item by item, starting with commodity items such as PCs, and using SEWP III until SEWP IV is available, he said. VA still has to create approval processes for IT orders. Three technical organizations, cybersecurity, telecommunications and enterprise architecture, must scrutinize each order.

“The SEWP team has even agreed to flag items special for the VA. So if you’re a VA person, you can only buy VA-flagged items,” Shaffer said.

VA is planning some standardization across the department with the contract. Under Peaches, managers could choose from many different PC configurations. Under SEWP, VA will standardize to two or three configurations departmentwide.

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