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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