GSA set to review struggling acquisition systems project

The General Services Administration's Integrated Acquisiton Environment, and the system under development to replace it, have run over-budget and offtrack, and now the agency is preparing to find out why. GSA has assembled a team to investigate. according to a Government Accountability Office report released March 15.

Since 2009, IAE costs have increased by $85 million. Its initial estimated cost was $96 million, but now risen to $181 million. GAO reported that the ballooning cost  is due to GSA officials omitting hardware and other key components when they bought a hosting infrastructure for the System for Award Management (SAM). GSA later had to buy the hardware anyway, requiring a contract modification and adding the cost of the hardware to the infrastructure they'd already purchased.

There are other outside factors too. Statutory requirements and policy changes through the years have increased the cost. Those changes have expanded the use of the IAE beyond its original scope.

Related story:

Senate overseers want review of acquisition initiative

“GSA has established an Integrated Project Team that will reassess and develop a broad plan covering both System Acquisition Management and the IAE program as a whole,” Administrator Martha Johnson wrote March 8 in response to GAO’s findings.

IAE is a project to eliminate acquisition data systems throughout the government that do the same work.

IAE was initiated in 2001 to fuse the different contracting data systems into a unified system. Officials adopted some agency-specific system for governmentwide use. They bought a new system if none other met a need. IAE ended up with a portfolio with nine data systems.

Then in 2008, GSA began consolidating those nine systems into one integrated data system -- SAM.

Officials planned to have SAM ready by May of this year. However, they’ve delayed the development schedule by almost two years because of rising costs and limited funding. They have reworked the project to reduce costs or simply defer them where it’s possible.

GSA is bound for more trouble ahead though as a result, according to GAO.

A delay in the SAM schedule forces GSA to use the legacy IAE systems for much longer than expected. GSA also has to deal with increasing costs for hosting the systems and having a help desk.

GAO said GSA has not modified its primary development contract to line up the payment schedule with the delays. The program has continued to pay the same fixed price for SAM’s development and maintenance even though there was little to do for nearly 2 years.

GAO is also recommended reevaluating the business cases for SAM to determine if it’s the best way forward.

“Such a reevaluation is particularly important in light of the increased infrastructure costs, which are now a major impediment to completing SAM,” GAO reported.

Johnson agreed with GAO's recommendations.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Mon, Mar 19, 2012

This plan will not work as GSA's leaders do not know how to run procurements. The senior executives lack knowledge and successful experience. Often they get in the way of success. Promotions within GSA come from being a good bureaucrat not from running acquisition programs. Running these programs is hazardous to your career within GSA. The norm in GSA is be over budget and late. GSA should be challenged now to show any programs that have met budget and schedule. The track record of non success will show that this study must be conducted external to GSA. Then the bureaucrats must be kept out of the way while an external team of acquisition experts (who actually have a track record of success in running government programs) implements the solution. Then let the talented GSA workforce go to work.

Mon, Mar 19, 2012 OccupyIT

This just in - GSA Acquisition Maastas can't run acquisitions! Who knew?!?!? Next we will be told OPM can't run personnel systems! The level of arrogance and lack of accountability is the worst in the USG. They spend all their time hustling up revenue as a monopoly than they do executing mission in Ms. Johnson's office. Not to take anything away from the some of the line folks but their IT people and the executive office are a danger to themselves and others. Martha should go.

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