Government's move to commercial products spurs solutions-based contracts with outside professionals.
n this era of downsizing, the federal government will have to rely more heavily on private contractors for information technology support. Most agencies can no longer afford to maintain large, in-house IT departments, even if Congress or the White House allowed them to do so. The Clinton Administration's focus is on data-center consolidation and outsourcing.
Agencies will still buy billions of computer products and services annually, and they need more IT support than ever. But federal organizations will be less likely to turn to single sources for technology solutions.
Electronic commerce is poised to alter government-industry relationships even more. Integrators now list their services on Internet Web pages, and buyers will soon be able to purchase IT services online, just like other commodities.
At the Administration's prodding, many government agencies are reengineering and hiring systems integrators to implement solutions such as open computer systems, which provide interoperability. This is bad news for companies that depend on proprietary products, which are not compatible with systems from other manufacturers, but good news for systems integrators who know how to make different technology platforms and products work together.
After decades of spending billions of dollars on products made to military specifications and unique government standards, agencies are purchasing more commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) products. This is a boon for firms that can customize COTS products to government requirements. The trend has helped spur the movement toward solutions-based contracts, where hardware and software purchases come bundled with the services necessary to implement the products in specific environments.
Agencies also are continuing to migrate mainframe legacy systems to new client-server platforms that often provide fivefold to tenfold increases in price-to-performance ratios. One of the biggest challenges facing systems integrators is dealing with outdated equipment that federal organizations cannot yet afford to replace. One contractor recently complained of untold amounts of heartburn caused by integrating old minicomputers into a state-of-the-art network.
Composite Health Care System
One of the most successful systems-integration programs of the decade is the Defense Department's Composite Health Care System, an eight-year, $2.6 billion contract awarded to Science Applications International Corp. The project, which ended in February, covered the design and deployment of a data system used in 526 DoD hospitals and clinics.
The system-available 24 hours a day, seven days a week-is used by 150,000 health-care providers to record and obtain information on 8.5 million patients. Data processing is done at speeds up to 30 percent faster than those specified in the contract.
Approximately 1,200 SAIC workers developed the system by generating 1.8 million lines of computer code. Users and service providers also had substantial input into the design of the system-a factor many say contributed to its success.
While the big tasks for the Composite Health Care System (CHCS) are done, three major changes are in the works. First, the Defense Department is developing the ability to move patient records between databases in CHCS and other systems. Second, DoD plans to migrate CHCS to a three-tiered client-server architecture. The system will offer users graphical user interfaces such as those found on most personal computers. Such changes will be accomplished through the Defense Medical System/System Integration, Design, Development, Operations and Maintenance Services contract, which uses vendors such as American Management Systems, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Electronic Data Systems, PRC and SAIC.
DoD has adopted a different approach in the CHCS follow-on contract. From now on, the emphasis will be away from mainframe services and toward commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and software in a client-server environment. In the future, smaller application systems will eventually replace the mainframe system.
Another project that has garnered praise is the Federal Aviation Administration's Agency Data Telecommunications Network 2000, built by Government Systems Inc. The non-air traffic, data communication network functions as an intranet for the FAA. ADTN 2000 was recently singled out by the National Performance Review as a prototype for developing federal data communications systems.
In 1994, GSI was tasked with creating a system to replace the FAA's aging Administrative Data Telecommunications Network, which was outdated, expensive to operate and no longer capable of providing essential services. The 10-year ADTN 2000 contract, awarded at $20 million, has since grown to $40 million.
The replacement network is based on X.25 packet-switching technology and links FAA headquarters with field offices and regional centers. The backbone supports 1,600 LAN connections and a laundry list of IT equipment running on a variety of platforms. The network is expected to support about 90,000 users by 2000. The FAA plans to upgrade the network to include multimedia services such as voice and video.
Besides designing the network, GSI had to buy and manage the hardware, software and telecommunications equipment, in addition to providing 24-hour technical support seven days a week for users. While GSI was the prime contractor, several subcontractors supplied hardware such as switches and routers.
"We have seen tremendously improved cost-effectiveness from the network, and hail GSI's help-desk operations as a major part of the service," says Dave Tuttle, FAA's director of national air space system operations. "This is one of the best examples of government and private industry partnership I have ever seen. Within six months of the contract being let, we had full cutover from the old system to the new one."
Minding the Welcome Mat
In an effort to prevent millions of immigrants from crossing into the country illegally, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has teamed up with EDS in a five-year, $296 million Information Technology Partnership (ITP). About 1,000 EDS employees support INS nationwide, with major processing activities handled at a Justice Department data center in Dallas. Some 300 EDS workers concentrate on office automation and desktop services, including networking, e-mail, LAN and WAN development, user support, help desks and training. Another 700 EDS employees focus on software development, engineering, and systems operation and maintenance.
One of the major initiatives under ITP is a digital fingerprint system now being deployed along the southwestern border of the United States. The system is designed to speed up the identification of repeat offenders.
Another major partnership is the INS Passenger Accelerated System, which issues identity cards to frequent travelers to speed their entry into the United States. Passengers can clear immigration via special kiosks instead of conventional stations manned by INS employees.
ITP also has branched out to explore such technologies as biometric recognition. These techniques read palm prints, retina capillaries and thermal signatures to identify people.
Sharing the Pie
One major contract that reflects DoD's new way of doing business is the Integration for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (IC4I) contract, awarded this year by the Electronics System Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Ohio. IC4I is an open-ended IDIQ procurement vehicle offering government buyers one-stop shopping for a variety of commercial products and services.
Under IC4I, contractors integrate commercial hardware and software products into unique solutions. Work orders can range from $20,000 to $20 million and the contract is open to any DoD or government component with a C4I mission. Agencies cannot, however, use the contract to acquire office-automation equipment for routine administrative applications such as payroll.
"IC4I will help bring some much needed standardization to the IC4 community and help do away with the hundreds of stovepipe systems that once characterized DoD," says Lt. Col. Jim Schepley, spokesman for the Electronics System Center. "The logistics [of coordinating among those systems] were horrendous."
The three prime contractors for the $929 million contract are BTG, Cordant and Systems Research and Applications Corp. Having three prime contractors keeps the contract competitive, according to Schepley, and forces vendors to bring in new business.
To ease the workload on its overwhelmed legacy mainframe system, the FBI recently rustled up $640 million for the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), a database capable of holding millions of fingerprint images. The agency initially tried to handle the integration on the project, but because of the scope of the effort handed it over to Lockheed Martin, PRC and SAIC.
The fingerprint system consists of three components. Lockheed Martin is developing the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which will take about six years. PRC is working on the Integrated Tasking and Networking portion while SAIC is handling the Interstate Identification Index, which will be capable of conducting 55 database searches per second, and nearly 1 million searches per day.
The system's new hardware will feature a symmetrical multiprocessing computer providing a tenfold increase in performance and reliability over the old system. The machine will take up the space of about two filing cabinets, as opposed to the 32,000 square feet occupied by the FBI's old mainframe fingerprint-processing system.
"IAFIS was necessary because the agency's fingerprint-processing capability was approaching a crisis level," says Harkin McEwin, deputy assistant director at the FBI. "Not only was there a 90-day backlog, but each new day saw up to 1.5 million fingerprints in various stages of processing. With IAFIS, the bureau will be able to enjoy a 24-hour turnaround for normal processing, with a special two-hour turnaround for priority prints."
Meteorologists probably got a chuckle from all the hooey that passed for science in the recent movie Twister. But when data comes pouring in from the 14 Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) sites recently deployed in the nation's tornado belt, weather experts probably will be glued to their workstation screens.
AWIPS is the integrating element of the National Weather Service's controversial $4 billion modernization effort. The system is based on a client-server, open-systems architecture using commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and software. It will bring together all the data collected from radar, satellites and ground-observing stations at 130 offices across the country. The system will enable forecasters to view all the data on single workstations.
The $525 million contract, which was awarded to PRC in 1992, includes a communications component for passing information to other federal organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as local police and fire departments.
The National Weather Service developed a unique payment schedule for the AWIPS contract, using a cost-plus incentive fee approach for the development phase and a firm fixed-price arrangement for the deployment phase. The systems-maintenance phase will be handled as cost-plus, fixed-fee scheme.
"Contractors are in a better position to offer the expertise for integrating and operating the system, while government scientists work on specialized software," says Mary Glackin, modernization systems manager for the National Weather Service. "There is a bit of science in it and it's evolving quite rapidly."
Top Federal Systems Integrators
|Lockheed Martin||Bethesda, Md.||7.5%|
|Computer Sciences Corp.||El Segundo, Calif.||7.0|
|Science Applications Intl. Corp.||San Diego||6.8|
|Electronic Data Systems||Plano, Texas||3.5|
|Wang Laboratories||Billerica, Mass.||2.8|
|Unisys||Blue Bell, Pa.||2.4|
|Ogden Corp.||New York||2.2|