USDA sold on shared services

Cost and value drove decision to use GSA

USDA's Chris Niedermayer

Rick Steele

Whether or not to use a shared-services provider to meet the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 deadline is a decision every agency must face, but it should be an easy one to make, according to one agency expert.

Chris Niedermayer, the Agriculture Department's associate CIO for information and technology management, is a proponent of agencies using shared-services providers, specifically General Services Administration's offerings.

"The most efficient and cost-effective way [to comply with the HSPD-12 mandate] is to go with GSA," said Niedermayer, who also is the co-chairman of the Office of Management and Budget's HSPD-12 Executive Steering Committee. "If you don't come to GSA or you do your own thing, you will pay higher prices. There is no reason to do anything but go to GSA."

He said the difference between every agency using shared services or going on their own would be $300 million.

The Agriculture Department is among 49 agencies that have signed with GSA to meet the Oct. 27 deadline. David Temoshok, GSA's director of identity management, said nine agencies have committed to going on their own, while more than 100 agencies chose to use a shared-services provider.

Niedermayer said the Agriculture Department did analysis of how to comply with HSPD-12. The agency chose to write its own statement of work for the process and went to GSA to meet the mandate.

"When you use shared services, IDs are verified and managed with oversight," he said. "This makes the system worth more. You're able to trust the system because it's low risk."

Niedermayer said that service providers create a trusted system, because a broader consortium leads to better service.

"There is value in getting to share infrastructure. It's a better product because of consistency and integration. There is no extra cost, because you have an Identity Management System," Niedermayer said.

If an agency chooses to go on its own, the complexity of integrating with other systems increases. Niedermayer also cited savings from volume discounts as a reason to use a shared-services provider.

The Agriculture Department anticipates the cost of Personal Identity Verification cards to be less than $100 per card. The agency had planned to being issuing its cards the week of Oct. 23.

"The work is done, the products are tested. We have a fully standard compliant card. We'll begin issuing cards well before the 27th," said Niedermayer.

Niedermayer said the card will eventually be used for physical access, logical access and a single sign-on to computers at the Agriculture Department. Once all agency systems are integrated, a single sign-on for use in all agencies can be established.

With agency employees needing access to other agency locations and systems, and with vendors and interns frequenting agency buildings, Niedermayer said, a fully integrated system would be important.

"When someone's status changes, we will be able to go to one place and turn off their access," he said.

Kerri Hostetler, an intern with Government Computer News, is a senior at Malone College, Canton, Ohio. She can be reached at khostetler@postnewsweektech.com.

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