History's trash heap

Thomas R. Temin

Anthropologists study trash to better understand defunct civilizations and lost cultural phenomena.

You could also examine the detritus of General Services Administration contracts to spot the trends and fads that have washed over the government, leaving sometimes moribund contracts in their wake.

GSA officials recently said they would let at least a half dozen governmentwide acquisition contracts expire. In the meantime, I presume the contracts won't be actively marketed.

It's a fascinating list. The six slated for nonrenewal addressed real agency IT concerns'or at least the fondest hopes of the contracts' creators.

But many of these multicontract deals never garnered much in the way of task orders.

Take Seat Management. Once touted as the most important development since the PC itself arrived, this vehicle for outsourcing individual users' computing requirements never caught on. Except for the troubled Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, seat management itself has gained only scant popularity within government.

With so many alternate channels for buying ever-cheaper commodities, few offices bothered to go through the exercise of figuring out whether outsourcing or leasing would actually be less costly than buying.

Disaster Recovery Services, Safeguard for information security, Virtual Data Center Services for vendor outsourcing centers and Reverse Auctions will also disappear.

These contracts also were designed to meet perceived needs, but none of the deals particularly caught fire with buyers.

You can't conclude that agencies lack backup plans or ignore security just because these multiaward contracts have grown musty.

I think what's behind their demise is that the federal government still doesn't act as a unified entity, nor is its collective heart really into outsourcing.

Now I'm waiting to see how soon the SmartBuy enterprise licensing program turns into an anthropological relic.

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