Virginia seeks IT partnerships

George Newstrom

Virginia is accepting proposals from contractors for ways to finance its information technology infrastructure to improve service and equipment while saving money.

Virginia plans to award the contracts under its two year-old Public-Private Education Infrastructure and Facilities Act, state officials said.

Designed to encourage public-private partnerships for public infrastructure projects and to fund school construction projects, the act was expanded last year to include technology infrastructure projects, such as telecommunications, management information systems and related services.

George Newstrom, Virginia's secretary of technology and chairman of the state's Information Technology Investment Board, said the act will let the state get the latest infrastructure without footing the entire bill.

The act is a "terrific mechanism for Virginia to get the most creative and innovative proposals possible, since they are not tied to a prescriptive RFP process," he said.

State officials declined to disclose which companies have submitted proposals. Industry experts said the companies most likely to have offered proposals are American Management Systems Inc., Fairfax, Va.; BearingPoint Inc., McLean, Va.; IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; and Northrop Grumman Corp., Los Angeles.

John Kost, managing vice president of worldwide public-sector research at Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Conn., IT market research firm, said expanding the act to include IT infrastructure shows that both Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and the state's General Assembly recognize that the procurement process "is normally a difficult and time-consuming hurdle that can stand in the way of change."

Unlike many state and local jurisdictions that do sole-source contracting only during emergencies, Virginia has a law allowing such awards based on a solid business case, he said.

The Warner administration and the General Assembly are probably taking this approach because they realize there is great potential to save money through IT consolidation or outsourcing, Kost said.

"If so, every day delayed is taxpayer money wasted," he said. *

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