November 4, 2011 by cs
Homeland Security Department officials unveiled the details of their new seven-year, $3 billion FirstSource II contract.
The FirstSource II draft Request for Proposals was released Oct. 31. The final RFP is expected no later than December 31, officials said.
FirstSource I, a $2 billion contract launched in 2007, is expiring and its replacement will concentrate on commodity purchasing through value-added resellers, William Thoreen, director of the Acquisition Division in the Office of Procurement Operations, told 600 small business owners Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Building.
“We really believe FirstSource II is going to become a very important piece of our portfolio both for IT and strategic sourcing,” he said.
Under FirstSource I, DHS has bought commodities through value-added resellers, including the purchase of computers, desktops, laptops, network cards, routers through small businesses, Thoreen said.
“The scope of the commodities we buy under it is very broad because we need a lot of different IT commodities,” Thoreen said, and added that FirstSource II will also include VAR purchases of new IT commodities.
“We have learned an incredible amount from that [initial] award and we are going to incorporate a lot of changes in FirstSource II that makes sense for us and we hope makes sense for you,” he said.
For one, “FirstSource II targets specific [small-business] categories that will help our program managers meet their individual goals,” Thoreen said.
FirstSource II “is going to be different. It will provide opportunities for small businesses to partner up for us. The most important thing is that it succeeds in fulfilling our mission needs. We’re not just contracting for contracting sake; there are mission needs and they need to be primary,” Thoreen said.
DHS CIO Richard Spires summed up the dilemma of most of his peers in government. “I’ve got more things coming at me than ever, more demands,” he said. “And I’m going to have less dollars – a pretty classic problem, right? – we’re feeling the squeeze right now.”
Spires said the new contract would address four DHS priorities: infrastructure rationalization, overall IT improvement, elimination of duplication and balancing the CIO workforce, which has grown to 260 employees during the past few years, to meet the new realities.
“We’ve got to make significant changes, particularly in our infrastructure and the commodity IT arena to be able to offer at least the same level of service – and I would hope more service – to my customer base,” he said.
“Data center consolidation, really looking hard and driving true cloud-based services both in the private cloud, out of our own enterprise data centers, as well as in the public services are certainly a couple of things that we’re doing that are very visible,” Spires said.
Spires added that he wants to leverage DHS’ great buying power as exemplified by FirstSource II “to bring components together in ways that we never have before across a lot of functions within DHS.”
As a result of discussions with the Small Business Administration and others, “we’re going to be able to use all five of the small business categories in which we have set-aside authority,” said Kevin Boshears, director of the DHS Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time this has been done in the federal contracting arena,” he added.
As a result, FirstSource II will have clear set-aside awards to 8(a), HUBzone, Service Disabled Veteran-Owned, Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned, and general small business.
But Boshears urged all small businesses “to be aware of the individual aspects of these [five] programs. There are common themes that run through all five of them, but there are individual details that may be germane to [only] one of the individual five categories.”
“So be certain that you are comfortable with the rules and all that has been asked of you to participate in any of the five categories,” he added.
Addressing the issue of teaming, Boshears said although teaming has always been a successful part of DHS contracts and because First Source II is all for small business, “we want each participant to be absolutely clear about which firm is serving as the prime contractor in both the pre-award phase and the post-award phase.”
He said that’s important for proposal preparation, for meeting all the requirements of the small business program and for transparency.
To answer “the question I get the very most – how many awards are you going to make?’ Boshears said the proper answer is “competition determines the final number.”
But a scan of previous DHS-wide multiple award contracts, including Eagle I, have averaged 27 to 28 small business prime contracts, he added.
“That doesn’t give you the absolute final number,” he said, “but it does give you kind of an idea of what we’ve done on previous projects.”
July 5, 2011 by cs
The Department of Housing and Urban Development already outsourced much of its network infrastructure under its HITS contract. Now the agency wants to take its infrastructure one step further and put it in the cloud.
HUD held its second industry day June 24 for its HUDNet program, which eventually will replace the $800 million HITS program, run by Lockheed Martin and Hewlett-Packard.
“HUDNet is a program that is looking at all the constituent pieces of the HITS program, all of its management pieces, the management framework around HITS,” said Mark Day, HUD’s chief technology officer, at a recent conference. “We are in the acquisition strategy phase. There will be RFPs coming out of this, but I can’t go much further than that.”
Day said the difference between outsourced or managed service contract and cloud is the elasticity. He said in a sense, HUD is in a private cloud that is virtualized, highly scalable and fairly agile.
“What is not there in a managed services contract is the business model of cloud. We do not have the elasticity. Prices do not go down when we use less,” Day said. “Managed services is what you might consider the high water mark price. If we ever bought that much of the infrastructure, we pay for that much of the infrastructure. In a cloud, you go up and down as your needs change. That is really what we are doing. It’s not a technical move for us. It’s a business model move in the procurement realm.”
Along with the two industry days, HUD issued a request for information in February.
In the RFI, the agency detailed five main areas, including hosting of its infrastructure in the cloud, self provisioning of capacity as needed and end-to-end monitoring of performance.
HUD is accepting comments, suggestions and recommendations on how to proceed through July 22.
HUD awarded Lockheed and EDS, which HP eventually bought, the HITS contract in 2005 to provide essentially all of HUD’s IT infrastructure, information processing, telecommunications, storage, enterprise middleware, operating systems, end user computing and communications devices (except desktop telephony) and related needs on a nationwide, agencywide basis, as organized around 24 core functions reflecting HUD’s various service needs.
No matter the approach HUD eventually chooses for its infrastructure, Day said the agency will need to do a few things, starting with improving the skills of its workforce.
“Now I need very savvy people to oversee that outsourced work. They need to understand IT, they need to understand metrics and management and remote management, if you will,” he said. “And that is an interesting grouping of skills when in fact they will never do actual IT work for you. So how do you get the right people with both a savvy understanding of the subject and an understanding of the management of that subject and how to measure that subject? It’s an interesting problem.”
Day said HUD is looking at career ladders for employees to gain both of these skills.
Metrics is another challenge for HUD. He said the TechStat sessions has helped ensure the agency has the right ones for a limited number of high priority programs.
“We have used TechStat to inform the interest level of our programs and others in doing our internal approach,” he said. “When they see they’ve got to do in front of OMB, it’s very easy to decide we ought to do it internally first. We ought to have the practice right. We ought to have the answers right. And we ought to in fact emulate that because it has driven good decision making.”
Day added TechStat sessions helped HUD focus in on the projects and metrics that really matter the most and how do they drive the agency’s mission. HUD culled their list down to seven from 38 major IT projects.
“The ones that are the same are the obvious ones schedule, budget and time and that type of thing. But really the other metric most people are not doing well is what is the business outcome for this project and how well are we actually meeting the business outcome? And if we are off schedule, what is the opportunity loss? If we are overbudget, what is the cost of that budget compared to the return on investment for that project?”
He added it’s a matter of figuring out the business goal of each project and then measuring what success looks like.
Day said TechStat also has helped HUD instill more rigor into the oversight of their IT programs.
- HUD touts experience with cloud, will share lessons learned
- HUD makes progress in IT modernization
- HUD revamping its approach to managing IT projects
May 13, 2011 by cs
The General Services Administration (GSA) has issued a request for quotations for cloud computing services, including email-as-a-service, office automation and electronic records management.
The Federal Cloud Computing Initiative is partnering with GSA SmartBuy and the Defense Department’s Enterprise Software initiative for the cloud services contracts. The contracts are reported to be worth an estimated $2.5 billion over five years. Multiple contracts are expected to be awarded.
The goal is to deliver email-as-a-service acquisition capabilities via enterprisewide blanket purchase agreements. “The objective of this RFQ is to offer five key service offerings through EaaS providers for ordering activities,” the RFQ states.
The requirements are divided into five lots, including mandatory email-as-a-service, migration and integration services; and optional office automation and electronic record management services.
For each service, vendors have a choice of providing a government community cloud, provider-furnished-equipment private cloud, secret enclave or public cloud.
About the Author: Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Washington Technology. Published May 10, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2011/05/10/GSA-issues-RFQ-for-cloud-computing-options.aspx?s=wtdaily_110511&p=1
December 15, 2010 by cs
The White House Thursday (12/9/2010) announced plans to restructure IT by consolidating federal government data centers and applications, and adopting a so-called “cloud first” policy.
The federal plan, released by federal CIO Vivek Kundra, calls for eliminating at least 800 of the government’s 2,100 data centers by 2015, as well as shifting some work to commercial, private and government-run cloud computing systems.
The goal, he said, is to help agencies share services and avoid duplication.
Since his appointment near the start of Obama’s administration, Kundra has been a strong advocate of cloud computing, of transparency in IT spending and the use of dashboards.
Kundra has also solicited ideas and opinions on improving IT operations from data center executives in the private sector.
Yesterday’s plan, which outlines 25 specific points, tied in a lot of those themes along with some new initiatives.
But Kundra’s plan is missing key elements likely important to the people affected by it, namely federal IT workers and the large contractor community that work with them, say analysts.
For instance, they said, the plan is silent on the fate of employees whose data center is targeted for consolidation or migration to commercial cloud services.
Implementing this plan will involve some personnel reorganization in the form of integrated program teams, which may open up new training opportunities, particularly for program managers to run this new environment.
However, getting employee buy-in may have been made a little more challenging by President Barack Obama’s recently announced plan to forego federal pay raises for the next two years.
The federal government’s $80 billion IT budget is a major source of private sector employment in the area. Thus, consolidation and increasing sharing of IT services by government agencies may also impact contractors who sell and services government systems.
TechAmerica, an industry group, reported this week that it counted 293,000 tech workers in the Washington area, the second largest concentration in the country after New York.
More broadly, the plan doesn’t offer an estimated price tag for implementation or an overall savings goal.
Ray Bjorklund, an analyst at Federal Sources Inc., said he likes the plan, but sees it as more of concept at this point that combines the White House’s oft-stated IT goals. “This report summarizes many of those initiatives all together in one context,” he said.
“It’s not quite an action plan,” said Bjorklund, but it does tie together the parts needed to make it work. For instance, in discussing the use of cloud environments, the plan talks about the need for “experienced and well-trained IT acquisition professionals.”
As outlined, the plan would lead to a more economical IT environment, said Bjorklund.
It’s effectiveness, though, could vary among agencies.
Federal agencies could experience trade-offs in a more standardized environment, and what may be good for one agency may have shortcomings for another. “But it will be more efficient, need less physical infrastructure,” along with fewer contracts and fewer operating people, Bjorklund said.
Bjorklund said the plan’s personnel cuts could affect contractors in particular.
“This is going to require major cultural shift,” said Deniece Peterson, an analyst at government market research firm Input. “Who wants to work themselves out of a job?”
The government can’t afford to get rid of a whole lot of people, said Peterson. However, she added, because of “the fact that it isn’t stated, I think people in government will make the assumption that this will impact me negatively simply because there has not been a dedicated message. ”
“You need the federal workforce and vendor workforce to buy into this in order to accomplish it, but if what you are trying to accomplish could have negative implications on them, then how much progress can you actually make?” said Peterson.
The IT plan may not be a negative, but for now it is an aspect of the plan that is “is missing from the conversation,” she added.
– by Patrick Thibodeau – December 10, 2010 – Computerworld
October 15, 2010 by cs
After a decade of booming contract spending, the federal acquisition market is expected to tighten considerably in fiscal 2011, with fewer opportunities for companies to win major awards, according to an industry research group. Technology deals are likely to be among the exceptions.
The fiscal 2011 budget shows a nearly 5 percent decrease in overall contract spending and market experts expect intense competition among vendors for a smaller pool of taxpayer dollars.
“The government is doing everything possible to consolidate and spend as little money as possible in this upcoming year,” said Ashley Bergander, manager of federal programs at FedSources, a McLean, Va., research firm.
Much of the drop in contract spending, she said, can be attributed to the Obama administration’s efforts to bring jobs back in house. The Defense Department announced in August that it was cutting its spending on service contractors by 10 percent during each of the next three years. Many of the jobs contractors currently perform will be insourced to federal workers, particularly at the military services, although other tasks could be eliminated altogether, Defense officials said.
“It’s been a big push by the current administration to hire more government workers, especially to complete a lot of services,” Bergander said. “So we are seeing a lot less contracting out there for actual services.”
Earlier this week, FedSources released its annual report detailing the top 50 contract opportunities — based on their size and relative importance for the government — in fiscal 2011, which began on Oct. 1.
With few exceptions, most of the largest upcoming contracts are recompetes of expiring deals, in which agencies are seeking multiple vendors, rather than a single source, to perform the work. The procurements generally will be firm fixed-price, incorporate full-and-open competition and involve more small businesses, Bergander said.
For example, during the first quarter of the fiscal year, the Homeland Security Department is expected to recompete its $22 billion Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions requirement. The departmentwide contract for information technology services and commodities will be divided into two source selections: one that is unrestricted and another reserved for small businesses.
Homeland Security’s EAGLE contract is expected to be the second-largest award of fiscal 2011, behind the $30 billion Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise contract, also known as EAGLE. The hotly anticipated Army contract is noteworthy in its value and scope, encompassing a range of domestic and international functions, from training and logistical support to financial tracking, software maintenance and project management. Army’s EAGLE will be available to all government agencies and possibly foreign governments.
Agencies also appear to be taking new approaches to issuing follow-on contracts. A separate report released this week by the market research group INPUT found single contracts frequently are broken into multiple-award, indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity efforts and then rolled into larger and expanded programs.
“Procurements are being reconfigured to accommodate new contracting approaches that are designed to increase opportunities for small business and level the playing field for those firms to compete with their peer group,” the INPUT report said. “This trend makes sense as agencies struggle to conduct acquisitions with a growing shortage of contracting personnel and yet strive to award an increasing percentage of contract dollars to small businesses.”
Overall, FedSources expects an increase in the cybersecurity, health information technology and energy markets, with a declining emphasis on major weapons, aircrafts and NASA space programs. INPUT also is forecasting an uptick in emerging technology approaches, such as cloud computing.
“Any expectations industry may have had regarding a shift in focus to social programs under the Obama administration have not yet materialized in major contract opportunities,” INPUT wrote.
INPUT, recently purchased by Deltek, examined the top 20 upcoming contract opportunities in fiscal 2011, accounting for about $140 billion — a nearly $40 billion decrease from fiscal 2010. Most of the major acquisitions are at Defense, because civilian agencies already awarded many high-value contracts last fiscal year, the group said.
Smaller firms also could see a bigger share of the pie as agencies attempt to introduce more competition and finally meet their small business contracting goals, Bergander said.
The Air Force, for example, is expected to award in early fiscal 2011 its second version of the Consolidated Acquisition of Professional Services contract for technical and acquisition management support at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The $3 billion contract will be awarded exclusively to small businesses.
The Health and Human Services Department, meanwhile, is planning to award its $20 billion CIO-SP3 total small business governmentwide acquisition contract for health and research information technology.
– By Robert Bronsky – NextGov.com – 10/07/2010
September 30, 2010 by cs
When Clint Boulton wrote about the competition for the cloud services proposals that have gone to the General Services Administration, he correctly pointed out that Google, IBM and Microsoft all have products that are essentially similar.
The three companies are proposing to provide Web mail and other office applications in a cloud-based environment. All of them will cost about the same, and all will provide federal workers pretty much the same thing. But that doesn’t mean that these companies have an equal chance of winning. It doesn’t even mean that any of them will win.
The GSA has great latitude in awarding contracts, and the companies have great latitude in what they propose to deliver. In addition, it’s a certainty that whoever eventually does win the contract award will find the decision being appealed. So any move to cloud services will happen only when something final comes out of the process. But there’s no guarantee that the end result will resemble the initial proposals.
First, it’s important to remember that federal government contracting is rife with rules that attempt to make sure that the government gets the best overall deal, that no unfair practices are taking place and that a number of Congressionally mandated requirements are met. Second, it’s not unusual for the GSA to ask for modifications to a proposal to reflect changes in technology, the products in question or to meet emerging requirements that weren’t in the original RFP.
It’s also not unusual for one-time competitors to decide to team up to win a contract so they can provide a capability at a price that no one else can offer. And, of course, it’s possible that the GSA will decide that all of the proposals are deficient, and not award the contract to anyone. All of these things happen routinely in government contracting.
In the case of IT contracts, there’s a big advantage in being the incumbent contractor providing a service. You already know exactly what’s going on; you already know the people awarding the contract; and you know exactly how you’ll do the migration. Because of this, you might be able to propose a solution that has the best credibility. It also helps a lot if you have long experience in crafting winning proposals. You know exactly how to present your products and solutions so that they meet the requirements, stated and implied, of the procurement.
If there’s one company that leads in this group, it’s IBM. Despite the fact that IBM is primarily a computer hardware, software and services vendor, this company is good enough at federal contracting that it’s won systems integration contracts for everything from helicopters to spacecraft. The fact that IBM is also the incumbent, that federal employees are already used to IBM’s Lotus product line, and that IBM should have the easiest time in migrating existing Lotus users to Lotus-in-the-cloud won’t be lost on the people evaluating the proposal.
But that doesn’t mean that IBM will have an automatic win. The GSA does pay attention to the proposed cost, and if a company proposes a credible solution that’s significantly more cost effective than the company with what might be seen as the best technical solution, they might win anyway. As unlikely as it may seem, the GSA really does try to keep a tight hand on the purse strings, and has been known to be flexible about technical requirements if it will substantially lower the price.
But to win, the proposed solution will have to be credible. IBM probably can demonstrate that it can meet the government’s needs in terms of responsiveness, security (even if this product isn’t yet FISMA certified) and the ability to meet the needs of very large organizations. Microsoft, which has a long history in government contracting, although not as long as IBM which won its first government contract in the 19th century, can point to vast installations of desktop, server and Web software throughout the government. But Google might have problems in this area. In addition, all of those Gmail outages, the occasional security breach and the Google cloud’s growing pains could give the government evaluators pause.
Or they might not. Google might be able to convince the GSA that it can deliver everything the federal government wants, and the GSA might be in a mood to take a break from IBM and Microsoft. But whatever solution gets chosen will have to be justified, and that’s where we’ll see exactly what made the difference. And then if anyone is still paying attention, we’ll learn more during the appeals. Or we might not.
The only thing you can really count on with the GSA cloud services contract is that it won’t really be over at the end of September. There’s no assurance that whatever company gets the win will really be the winner. There may not even be one winner or even a winner at all. The arbiter of what’s best for the government is the GSA, and ultimately they’ll decide using their own criteria what’s best for the federal government. Unless, of course, Congress gets involved.
– by Wayne Rash – eWeek – Sept. 23, 2010
September 13, 2010 by cs
Since assuming her role as head of the General Services Administration earlier this year, Martha Johnson has fully embraced the agency’s information technology initiatives.
GSA’s revamped Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies is playing a key role in the Obama administration’s open government initiative, helping federal agencies improve their public-facing websites and build social media capabilities.
The agency also has taken charge of the government’s migration to cloud-based mobile computing and is acting as a central source of information about software and infrastructure as a service capabilities. But as it gins up these programs, GSA also must continue to compete with individual agencies’ procurement vehicles for business.
Analysis by Reston, Va.-based research firm INPUT shows a decline in spending annually from fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2009 on GSA’s Schedule 70, on which technology products and services are sold. Industry observers point to agencies’ lack of trust in GSA to manage the acquisition processes critical to daily operations, a desire to retain individual control over contracts, and the momentum agencies have gained by running their own procurement shops for years as key factors in slow sales.
The Government Accountability Office in June reported that agencies use their own enterprisewide contracts to retain control over the procurement process and to avoid paying fees associated with other agencies’ contracts. This causes duplication of products and services, however, and lost opportunities to save money in the procurement process, the audit found.
Industry analysts say to boost business, GSA has to convince agencies that its contracts provide the best value and its procurement processes are more efficient and responsive than agencies’ own vehicles. Johnson has acknowledged that GSA has work to do to bring back customers, which she says it can accomplish by being more responsive to their needs and learning to leverage technology and collaborative tools to communicate and solve problems. “We could win more business, to put it baldly, if we step up our performance,” she said at a March technology conference and security expo in Washington. “If GSA ups its game, I am confident that GSA’s business will grow.”
The agency anticipates growth in its new $10 billion commercial satellite communications program, Future Comsatcom Services Acquisitions, that provides services to civilian and defense agencies. And it has exceeded $1 billion in task orders on its cloud-ready Alliant program, a $50 billion governmentwide contract that aims to be the largest and most comprehensive vehicle for procuring IT services to date. It also is upgrading customer-facing tools such as GSA Advantage with improved product descriptions, images and price comparison tools, and is rolling out training programs to help customers use Web tools and find answers in real time.
Another issue GSA faces is the transition to its massive Networx contract, which, valued at $68 billion over 10 years, is the largest government telecommunications contract in history. Agencies are expected to move to Networx by June 2011, when FTS 2001, the previous contract, expires. GSA says the transition is more than halfway complete, but federal officials, lawmakers and others blame delays on the complexity of the contract and the broad range of services offered.
Johnson also is pushing government to eliminate its environmental impact, a step she calls the “moon shot.” GSA’s sustainability agenda includes projects around data center consolidation, smart building technology and virtual workplaces.
As one of many suppliers of goods and services to the government, GSA must continue to make the case for its efficiency, responsiveness and value if it wants to win agencies’ trust and their business.
– by Emily Long – GovExec.com – September 1, 2010
September 7, 2010 by cs
Some agency officials say they are following a well thought-out approach to spending what’s left in their fiscal-year information technology budgets — a game plan that defies the myth that departments rush to spend funds before they become unavailable after Sept. 30.
The phenomenon of the year-end spending sprees first came to light in 1980, when the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management issued a report that found the hurry to obligate expiring funds before the end of the fiscal year often led to a lack of competition, inadequately negotiated contracts and the purchase of low-priority items.
In a 1998 follow-up to that study, the Government Accountability Office concluded agencies’ spending patterns were hard to assess because quarterly budget data, which could show a spike in fourth-quarter spending, was unreliable. Since then, federal auditors haven’t evaluated the issue much, and information on last-minute expenditures can be hard to obtain, according to some academic researchers.
Ramji Balakrishnan, an accounting professor at the University of Iowa who co-wrote a 2007 report on the subject, recently told Federal News Radio that he was able to access figures on year-end spending at U.S. Army hospitals largely because his co-author, a veteran, had contacts inside the military. According to the paper, which was published in the Journal of Management Accounting Research, administrators stockpiled supplies toward the end of a fiscal year, but then saved more money than they spent during the year-end splurge at the start of the next fiscal year.
A trend of precalculated buying seems to be occurring at several agencies with large IT budgets, including the General Services Administration and Veterans Affairs Administration, according to government officials.
In April, Administrator Martha Johnson directed GSA’s chief information officer, Casey Coleman, to complete five high-priority IT projects within 18 months — a feat that Coleman said the agency finished in 10 weeks. The agency’s IT budget for fiscal 2010 is $605.9 million. By quickly wrapping up the projects, which included boosting the capacity of GSA’s networks and adding remote private networks for teleworkers, Coleman was able to focus late-year spending on supplemental purchases for the agency’s increasingly mobile workforce, she said.
“By doing that we really set the foundation for IT modernization for the agency,” Coleman said in an interview with Nextgov. “Now we are in Phase 2 of our modernization program.”
Phase 2 involves purchasing green products. Johnson this summer challenged GSA to eliminate the federal government’s adverse effects on the environment, what’s known as creating “a zero environmental footprint.”
The agency plans to spend its IT money in September on products and services that support the zero e-emissions goal, Coleman said. GSA will invest in videoconferencing equipment; shared printing workstations to replace individual desktop printers, which are rarely used; and a cloud computing tool for e-mail, scheduling and other interoffice communications. Cloud computing is an arrangement that provides online access to hardware and software, eliminating the need to rely on energy-hungry, in-house data centers for IT services.
A contract for cloud services is expected to be awarded in October using fiscal 2010 money earmarked for spending in September.
GSA was unable to provide information on remaining money the agency returned to the treasury at the end of the last fiscal year.
The thinking is that GSA, as the nation’s biggest storefront, can expand the green IT market governmentwide — and perhaps nationwide — by purchasing environmentally responsible goods. Experimenting at the departmental level also might enable GSA to eventually offer governmentwide, eco-friendly IT contracting vehicles, agency officials said.
Veterans Affairs, which has a $3.3 billion IT budget, will spend its remaining fiscal 2011 funds on rolling out systems that can quickly exchange patient records via the Web, VA officials said. Such expenditures should increase access to health care, including mental health services, they added. September money also will support upgrades to benefits delivery systems and the department’s IT infrastructure.
At the end of fiscal 2009, Veterans Affairs let $462,000 in IT-related funding lapse, or become unavailable for new purchases.
In the past, officials at the Environmental Protection Agency spent all of their IT money by the end of the year, but only after careful planning, they said. Last year, EPA did not return any IT-related funding to the treasury. The agency’s enacted IT budget for fiscal 2010 is $465 million.
A significant portion of EPA’s technology infrastructure spending is managed under a business model that quantifies IT needs at the beginning of each fiscal year, officials said. “This process promotes spending that is thought-out and forecasted, and minimizes a potential end-of year spending surge,” EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway said.
– By Aliya Sternstein – NextGov.com - 08/26/2010
September 1, 2010 by cs
The Social Security Administration expects to award by October a contract potentially worth more than $2 billion for information technology support during the next eight years, agency officials confirmed late Friday.
The huge purchase is an extension of an IT services contract currently held by Lockheed Martin Corp. that has reached its cap of $525 million. The scope of work for this follow-on will extend beyond the previous contract that was primarily for software development and maintenance to include health information technology as well as new management responsibilities. The award may be split between multiple companies.
In June, Social Security officials described the procurement as consisting of many technical areas, including application and business planning; systems administration for the operating systems z/OS, Unix, Windows and IBM WebSphere; and emerging technology applications, such as data mining, cloud computing and voice recognition.
The new contract also will continue the work being performed under SSA’s current agreement with Lockheed, the Agencywide Support Services Contract. That award, announced in November 2004, covers application development, testing and maintenance; document management, and software engineering. Lockheed has provided software support to Social Security since 1989 under various task orders.
The impending contract award comes at a time when SSA is under pressure from lawmakers and applicants to reduce disability hearing backlogs partly through videoconferencing, expedite claims processing and offer more online services. Given the rising tide of baby boomer enrollees and applicants suffering economic hardship, the agency’s infrastructure is strained. Social Security already processes 4.7 million retirement claims annually and pays 60 million beneficiaries a total of more than $700 billion a year.
The contract winners will be responsible for ensuring continuity of citizen services and remote disaster recovery as the agency renovates its 30-year-old database system, according to the request for proposals.
The health IT responsibilities for the program are exhaustive. Social Security manages the largest repository of imaged medical information in the world, according to SSA officials. The agency currently stores more than 250 million medical documents and adds 2 million more per week.
The contractor must create business models for exchanging electronic medical records, expand Internet services for Medicare and supplemental security income applicants, and enable the agency to request and receive medical data automatically through health information exchanges.
Such tasks require expertise in the areas of health IT standards, clinical terminology, multiple formats of electronic health records, patient confidentiality procedures, the medical community’s financial transactions and analysis of health care legislation.
This activity will “set them up for compatibility and interoperability with the pending growth of health IT among commercial providers who will be taking advantage of the HIT incentives that were legislated” in the 2009 Recovery Act, said Ray Bjorklund, chief knowledge officer for FedSources, a market research firm. Starting in 2011, doctors and hospitals that install certified electronic health records systems will be eligible for receiving bonus Medicare and Medicaid payments.
Several federal market specialists presume the government will award the contract to more than one vendor to boost competition, which should drive down prices, for individual task orders. The trade-off might be a lack of consistency in services, but the net benefits should generally outweigh the negatives, Bjorklund said.
He predicted multibillion-dollar contracts like SSA’s project will soon disappear in civilian agencies given tight budgets. In addition, the government is moving toward shared services, through which multiple agencies use a common IT infrastructure. The Obama administration particularly is pushing cloud computing, a type of shared services arrangement that provides IT products and services online and on-demand.
“For the civilian agencies this could be one of the last big ones for a while,” Bjorklund said. “But the pendulum swings.
August 27, 2010 by cs
Some contractors are welcoming the White House’s threat to cut off funding for risky information technology projects as a moment that could be financially advantageous to them.
The Office of Management and Budget on Monday released a list of roughly 30 at-risk, mission-critical IT projects worth about $30 billion that need reworking. Simultaneously, OMB officials are deciding the fate of about 30 financial system projects a historically costly class of IT systems that the White House halted on June 28. Agencies must downsize the projects or scrap them to start afresh.
The drastic measures are part of the Obama administration’s effort to end the traditional practice of rolling out complex IT systems that take years to build and often fail.
OMB now wants agencies to break projects into smaller chunks that can be deployed more quickly and cheaply. This means some system contractors will be paid less while agencies stop to redirect wayward projects.
That’s just fine for some suppliers of easy-to-configure software, even though they were affected by the pause in the projects. Executives from these companies said they could receive more business when departments recompete canceled projects, or when they buy smaller systems in the future.
“When you get beyond the fear and anxiety of, ‘Oh my God! I’m on the list,’ most people who’ve been around will confide in you that this [megaproject] model has to go,” said David Lucas, chief strategy officer for Global Computer Enterprises, which provides Web-based hardware and software for financial management. GCE is the contractor for the Labor Department’s new financial system, which is one of the projects OMB put on hold.
GCE specializes in delivering small, incremental functions that take less than 18 months to deploy, an approach that aligns with what the administration is encouraging all agencies to embrace, Lucas said.
He claimed the company has attracted more attention from chief information officers and chief financial officers since the White House put the freeze on financial system development.
Industry group TechAmerica, of which GCE is a member, came out with a statement on Monday that raised concerns about the criteria the White House used to identify projects in need of adjustments. The trade group has argued that instituting blanket freezes on IT projects will force contractors to raise prices to protect themselves from financial losses if work is halted.
But Lucas said, “You have to be able to say, ‘Maybe I am going to make less this year, but the end goal is to be able to help the agency in the long term.’”
Executives with software maker Agilex view the acquisition reforms as a business opportunity rather than a risk. The company produces computer programs using a process called agile software development, which sticks to a specified budget and deadline but leaves open the scope of a system’s capabilities. Often, White House directives, congressional mandates and agencies’ changing priorities will demand projects add or eliminate requirements. Agilex officials said the company’s practices allow agencies to inspect and try products during coding to decide whether they meet constantly evolving needs.
“Agile software development really focuses on exactly the business process that the government is really trying to achieve: incrementalism, chunking. I can’t wait 12, 18, 24 months to see if something is working,” said Larry Albert, an executive vice president for Agilex. “Just don’t show me slides. I need to see active working code.”
Agency managers also can access an internal Agilex website that displays performance metrics for each application as it is being created.
Albert said a number of agencies have approached the firm since late June, when OMB began issuing memos detailing IT acquisition changes. Agencies, however, have not yet talked to Agilex about any of the projects OMB called out on Monday, he said.
GCE and Agilex said the move to deploy systems more quickly should benefit most providers of cloud computing applications, which are IT services accessed via the Internet that users can turn on and off on demand. The Obama administration has been prodding agencies to consider cloud-based IT as a way to save energy and money.
– By Aliya Sternstein – NextGov.com – 08/24/2010