Countdown to the launch of NASA's $4B IT consolidation

Companies will compete to handle the agency's PC, mobile communications and other related services for an estimated $2.5 billion over 10 years. Four other contracts will bring the total to more than $4 billion for a broad range of IT services.

Federal contractors have been eying NASA’s planned multibillion dollar information technology services overhaul for months. Now, with the release of a final solicitation for an estimated $2.5 billion contract to manage the agency’s PCs and mobile communications, NASA's estimated $4.3 billion IT consolidation finally looks clear for takeoff.

Much of the attention of NASA’s overhaul program, named I3P, orbits around the Agency Consolidated End-User Services (ACES) project to provide a menu of IT services, such as e-mail, security management, instant messaging and mobile communications. The project represents just one of five components under I3P, but FedSources estimates ACES to be worth more than half of the $4.3 billion that the market research firm predicts I3P to be worth.  

NASA released a final request for proposals for ACES Jan. 25, and contractors have been working to craft proposals for the project. In all, four of the five solicitations expected under I3P have been released. NASA said it wants I3P to provide agencywide management, integration and delivery of IT infrastructure services through the I3P enterprise contracts.

“Potential cost savings, improved IT security and enhanced service delivery will be achieved through consolidated, streamlined operations available to all NASA centers,” said David Steitz, a spokesman at NASA's headquarters in Washington. “The value added across the I3P program includes integrated procurement and program management, reduced duplication, return to mission effectiveness, and return on investment.”

I3P’s contracts will replace existing pacts, such as the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA and Unified NASA Information Technology Services. The ODIN program provides managed services to NASA headquarters, major NASA centers, and shared services organizations. FedSources places spending on ODIN at $1.5 billion and Unified NASA Information Technology Services at $1.6 billion through fiscal 2009.

Lockheed Martin, NASA’s contractor for ODIN, announced last month that it received a nearly two-year extension for the program, worth about $230 million. The ODIN program has existed for about a decade. The contract provides desktop hardware and software, and as technology has advanced, it has added cell phones, personal digital assistants, mobile device computing and catalog services, among other services, said Colleen Leighty, Lockheed Martin’s program director for the ODIN contract.

Lockheed officials say they plan to compete for the ACES contract that would cover many of the services previously covered by ODIN. “Our objective is to continue being the partner of choice by understanding their mission,” said Darrell Graddy, vice president of Lockheed’s enterprise IT and data solutions line of business. Graddy added that expectations for managed services have changed since Lockheed began work on ODIN a decade ago. Agencies now face increased budget constraints, greater security and a demand for more data mobility.

"From our perspective…what the NASA agency is doing is the same thing I think many of the federal agencies are doing, which is how do we do more with less, if you will, because of the budget constraints," Graddy said. "In that regard, it would appear that NASA is trying to take more of an enterprisewide approach on not just managed services."

“We all recognize that technology has moved ahead since ODIN…was awarded," said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer of FedSources. "Technology has really gone forward so you really have to update your contracts, and there are certain performance expectations that go along with technology.” He added that there had been no way to anticipate social networking and other developments when ODIN was awarded.

Examples of how expectations for managed services contracts have expanded are evident in the ACES RFP. NASA wants to hire a contractor to handle e-mail and collaborative calendaring; active directory; security management including IT security, emergency management and preparedness; and data-at-rest services. Software license management, instant messaging services and mobile communications device services also would need to be provided.

NASA plans to award a single indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract for ACES, an approach Bjorklund said is for the sake of continuity and coherency.

“Desktop IT is commoditized…so why don’t I just use one contractor to get me the best possible deal across all those commodities and assembling the different desktop environments according to some standards, and then maybe I can get more efficiencies associated with that,” Bjorklund said, describing NASA’s thinking behind its plans to hire one contractor.

NASA's Steitz said in response to an inquiry about the I3P program that the agency created a risk management program to review policy, governance, staffing and security across all IT contracts. The risk management approach also seeks to increase transparency and accountability. He said NASA has added other management processes to the program, such as the IT Infrastructure Library and Lean Six Sigma.

NASA said last year that it might release some RFPs for I3P as early as Sept. 22, 2009, but the agency revised that timeline after NASA’s new chief information officer, Linda Cureton, took over and began a review of the RFPs.

In general, Bjorklund said he thinks the I3P program is well rationalized and reconciled. He said NASA has conscientiously laid out which contracts will be allowed to expire, which ones will remain and which ones will morph into something different.

“Consequently, you get this bigger picture of how all of these bits and pieces tie together," Bjorklund said. "I certainly give kudos to NASA for doing that because that’s so helpful for industry to give a more reasoned response to the various solicitations.”

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