Faraway disasters could hinder SEWP


Federal IT managers who might be working during a partial shutdown will still be able to order computers and IT gear from NASA's new government-wide acquisition contract, but they could face a wait for some computers.

NASA's Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) offices, located about a mile from Goddard Space Flight Center, near Greenbelt, Md., will remain open to support activities deemed essential if the House and Senate fail to agree on a continuing resolution, resulting in an Oct. 1 shutdown, according to Joanne Woytek, NASA SEWP program manager. SEWP supplies a wide array of IT products and product related services such as installation, implementation, warranty and maintenance to federal customers.

"Because SEWP supports all aspects of the government (both essential and non-essential) and the contractor staff is off-site and funded through December, the contractor (non-government) staff will operate the office and support any essential government activities during any shutdown," Woytek told FCW in an email. NASA's 40 SEWP positions are filled by contracted workers, not NASA employees, she said. They are paid with SEWP non-appropriated funding and not through NASA funding, she said.

However, the office will be open only a limited basis, according to statement at the SEWP website. "All interactions with the SEWP Program Office should be limited to those Government activities excepted [from shutdown] by law," it reads.

But federal IT managers might run into another nagging problem if they're trying to order certain kinds of computers and IT gear. On its website, NASA SEWP passed along an IT industry warning that a Sept. 4 fire at a chip fabrication plant in China could result in higher prices and possible delays for computers with double data rate (DDR) memory.

The fire, at SK Hynix's Wuxi, China, plant, has led to a surge in worldwide demand for the 2GB Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) memory chips used in personal computers, laptops, and workstation computers, as well as video game consoles. According to industry watcher DRAMeXchange, the Wuxi facility is responsible for about 10 percent of all DRAM production worldwide. Since the fire, the company has shifted some production to Korea and partially re-opened the Wuxi plant. Prices for PC DRAM 2GB chips have risen by as much as 36 percent since the fire, said DRAMeXchange.

SEWP vendors must include details of any computer gear produced in China or from Chinese-owned firms to facilitate checking to make sure they pass federal supply chain risk assessment rules.

"We do not get into specifics about products but do try to keep our customers informed of where possible worldwide (non-SEWP) delays may occur," Woytek said. "Our advice to our customers and all government IT customers is to be aware of effects that one incident in a foreign country can have on the overall supply chain – both in terms of costs and delivery time."

In addition to the fire in China, flooding near a Foxconn manufacturing facility in San Jerónimo, Chihuahua, Mexico, could also affect some computer deliveries. Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, owns the San Jeronimo facility located just across the New Mexico border. Chihuahua was hit with heavy rains and flooding in July that closed Chihuahua International Airport and caused one death.

Woytek said floods, fires and earthquakes have wreaked havoc on IT manufacturing over the years. Since all manufacturing is "just-in-time, regardless of how you order IT, unless it is pre-made and in a warehouse, it can be affected."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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