GSA postpones FirstGov revamp

GSA postpones FirstGov revamp

The wait for the new search engine to power the FirstGov portal continues'at least for another six weeks.

Originally, the General Services Administration planned to bring the engine online March 31. But officials pushed back the introduction of the new engine from AT&T Corp. and its partner, Fast Search and Transfer of Oslo, Norway, until June 1 because of a delay in procuring new Sun Microsystems Inc. servers for the new engine to run on.

'There was a problem in transferring the equipment from California,' said Deborah Diaz, deputy associate administrator in GSA's Office of FirstGov. 'Without the equipment, we couldn't start.'

Diaz said GSA recently received the servers and will begin testing them. The original plan was for testing to start in February.

GSA last month issued a five-year, $10.5 million contract to AT&T to provide new search services.

Incumbent continues

In the meantime, GSA will pay Federal Search Foundation Inc. of Washington $18,000 a month to continue to provide the existing search engine.

Diaz said GSA had to establish a new agreement with Fed-Search, through a purchase order, because the agency had ended the memorandum of understanding with the nonprofit. Fed-Search had provided the services at no charge since FirstGov's launch in September 2000.

'We wanted to make certain parties were in place for the transfer,' she said. 'Fed-Search will ensure continuity in the meantime.'

David Binetti, Fed-Search's president and chief executive officer, said the company has not decided whether to accept payment from GSA for the continued operations.

'GSA wanted to live up to their responsibilities, and they had given us a date when the switchover would be complete,' Binetti said. 'We made our plans based on their data. They had some unforeseen complications with their hardware. We will stay on board until they are ready.'

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