GSA to unify acquisition systems

The General Services Administration plans to contract with a single vendor to operate and maintain nine governmentwide systems used to streamline the acquisition process.

The Architecture and Operations Contract Support (AOCS) program seeks to consolidate vendor support and technology for the systems that make up GSA’s Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE).

GSA plans to release a draft request for proposals in early October, with a final RFP to follow in November and contract award by June 2009, said Chris Fornecker, director of GSA’s Office of Acquisition Systems.

GSA will prepare two other acquisitions to consolidate help-desk support and server hosting, he added.

The agency will use its USA Contact acquisition vehicle for the help-desk acquisition and make awards in early 2009, said GSA spokesman Michael Collins.

Planning for the server-hosting contract is the least far along, but the agency's tentative goal is to make an award by spring 2009. Citing procurement regulations, Collins declined to release the estimated value of the three acquisitions.

IAE is one of 24 e-government projects launched in 2002 as part of the President’s Management Agenda. It replaced stand-alone acquisition systems with nine governmentwide solutions, including the Central Contractor Registration database and FedBizOpps.

However, the time has come for further consolidation, Fornecker said. “We frankly don’t need nine databases,” he said. “We probably can get by with one and just add tables and data elements to capture some of the unique services some of these systems do.”

To that end, GSA will ask interested vendors to propose a service-oriented architecture for AOCS. A SOA approach would consolidate the technology environments of the nine IAE systems and allow them to share certain functions, such as user registration and databases, he said.

A diverse technology environment adds complexity and expense, Fornecker said. He added that a GSA project to integrate FedBizOpps with the Federal Technical Data Solution system showed that consolidating systems can also save money. The new system should save the government $1.6 million in the next fiscal year, he said.

The new SOA environment will assimilate existing systems in a phased approach. The Federal Procurement Data System will be the first to be integrated, in fiscal 2009. FedBizOpps, the next target, is slated for integration in 2010, Fornecker said.

One thing that the AOCS vendor won’t do is update the code of the various IAE systems.

Fornecker said he envisions two or three annual competitions for software developers to keep the system’s functionalities up to date. Contractually separating development from operations and maintenance will help ensure competition, he added.

GSA will require developers to use open-source coding. The operating and maintenance vendor will be responsible for change management.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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