Contract Cybernauts

letters@govexec.com

While NASA's space shuttles and probes explore outer space, the agency has set up an office in cyberspace for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts program.

Dr. Barry Jacobs of Goddard National Space Science Data Center in Greenbelt, Md., working with REI Systems Inc. of Vienna, Va., has created a World Wide Web-based system called "Electronic Handbooks," in which companies learn about contract opportunities online, submit their forms electronically, and NASA employees at 10 field centers conduct the entire contract review and selection process across the Internet.

The paperless system, which manages 35 percent of NASA's new contracts, will be "the largest, end-to-end, completely electronic Internet use in the federal government," says Jacobs.

The Electronic Handbooks make it easy for paper-centric employees to get comfortable doing their jobs online, says Shyam Salona, vice president of REI.

"With any system you always need to write a users' guide," says Salona. "The beauty of the Handbooks is they are guides that not only talk about the system, but that are the system."

The Handbooks are arranged in chapters corresponding to steps in the contracting process. Reviewers and managers are led through the chapters based on their different roles in the process. They see only the information necessary to perform their roles. Managers are also able to track where their employees are in the process.

Jane Fox, SBIR program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston, says she used to have to wait until the final deadline for contract reviews to find out if an evaluator was behind on his or her work. Now she can send reminders to employees who are falling behind.

"At any point in time, I know where everyone is in the system," says Fox.

Besides limiting employee access to only those documents that relate to their duties, the system also uses encryption to protect companies' proprietary data as they zip around the Internet among NASA's field centers.

Byron Jackson, deputy director of the SBIR program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., says tracking paper flow was difficult under the old system. SBIR contract proposals are reviewed by at least two evaluators, often at different field centers. That meant that some 2,500 proposals with at least 5,000 reviews categorized under 120 subtopics were being shuffled around the country. Managing the thousands of documents associated with those proposals across 10 centers nationwide was a horrendous task.

"Now we have all the data in one place," says Jackson. "Everybody can see the same data."

Paul Mexcur, NASA's SBIR program manager, says he expects to reduce the processing time for contracts by at least a third and may save several hundred thousand dollars a year in operating and manpower costs. Mexcur says the technology underlying the Handbooks was developed by SBIR contractors. The Handbooks were then implemented by NASA employees with support from REI.

Mexcur says there was some resistance from the more than 3,000 NASA employees who review, evaluate and process SBIR contract proposals when the new system was launched. But most bought in when they realized they would save time and work with the Handbooks.

The Handbooks and their underlying technologies are free to government agencies because they were developed under contract for NASA.

Jacobs says the Handbooks could be used by SBIR programs at other agencies. Handbooks are also being developed for several other offices at NASA, including the education program and grants management.

Salona says the system is ideal for programs whose users are geographically distributed and involved in complex processes.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.