Protest slows NASA open source project

NASA headquarters

NASA's plan to switch to an open-source content management system are on hold as a protest is resolved. Pictured: NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C. (NASA photo)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s plans to transition to a content management system with open source architecture are on hold for a little while.

The agency awarded a $40 million blanket purchase agreement in mid-December to Rockville, Md.-based InfoZen to replace the agency’s existing CMS – operated for several years by eTouch Federal Systems LLC – with open source architecture to run its 140 websites and 1,600 web assets and applications.

But that contract has come under protest from eTouch Federal Systems LLC, which filed a formal bid protest on Dec. 28 against NASA’s new deal with InfoZen.

The contract is now under review by the Government Accountability Office with an expected resolution by April 8, according to a NASA official.

The official said it was unclear whether work under the new agreement with InfoZen would begin. The contract has a one-year base and four one-year options and was previously scheduled to begin Feb. 1, 2013.

Bid protest aside, the contract with InfoZen appeared to fulfill a goal outlined in NASA’s Open Government Plan, which called for the creation of a single infrastructure to support the agency’s websites and applications, giving preference for open-source technology.

The agency’s Open Government Plan was a direct result of the Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative.

In a statement released prior to the bid protest, NASA said the agreement with InfoZen will provide a cloud-based solution for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) for internal and external websites and web applications. Services will include content management, as well as search and collaborative services, such as blogs and wikis.

NASA’s main portal,, attracts 600,000 unique web visitors per day and more than 140 million visits per year. The agency has been soliciting user feedback for the redesign, and content manager Brian Dunbar recently discussed plans for the site in a podcast.

Further details from NASA were not available. InfoZen’s CTO Christopher David said he could not comment on details of the contract or InfoZen’s plans for NASA, due to the bid protest. Meanwhile, eTouch did not respond to requests for comment.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 18, 2013

Maryland and Virginia are hot beds of IT talent, with strong economies.

Fri, Jan 25, 2013

This link may be helpful. NASA is overdependent on outsourcing in general.

Thu, Jan 17, 2013

A $40 million open source overloaded government outsourcing contract. What is wrong with this picture? Since when is Maryland known for its high tech IT? Waste fraud and abuse the contract should be cancelled in favor of insourcing and open sourcing the least expensive model with the highest potential for success.

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 Charlie DC

Please do not confuse an "open source solution" with open standards. Open source solutions are as proprietary as traditional proprietary systems. Just look at the companies behind them. Open Standards should be the focus as they are what is needed to provide true interoperability, portability, and transparency, "open source solutions" can still play in that game as can companies that make significant investments to improve technology solutions. To make a statement that open solutions are generally cheaper and better is questionable. It depends on what you are doing and I'd sure like to see a metric that proves or disproves it (solution by solution), not a general statement. Putting a contractor down for executing on a contract that was competitively sourced is silly. Open source had a crack at winning the original contract. By the way I am not putting down open source solutions. I just think there is a lot of misunderstanding about open source vs open standards.

Sat, Jan 5, 2013

Good to see some common sense on the budget, I would expect at least half that number.

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