New subcontracting system will help track IT spending

'We will get information that we've never had visibility into before.'

'GSA's Earl Warrington

The Integrated Acquisition Environment e-government team has begun work on a system that, for the first time, will let agencies go to one place to see if they are meeting federal subcontracting goals.

Agencies for years have tried to prove that they are meeting milestones for subcontracting with small, disadvantaged and woman-owned businesses but have had little data to work with.

The General Services Administration has hired Symplicity Corp. of Arlington, Va., to develop and implement by midsummer the Electronic Subcontractor Reporting System. GSA manages the IAE initiative, one of the 25 Quicksilver projects.

Increased visibility

'We will get information that we've never had visibility into before, and that will help us see additional opportunities,' said Earl Warrington, IAE's deputy program manager. 'In many respects, the more granular the information, the more difficult it has been to collect.'

The working group also will offer training to agency and vendor procurement workers, said Frank Lalumiere, deputy associate administrator for SBA's Government Contracting and Business Development Office.

The working group also will launch an ESRS Web site with answers to frequently asked questions, said Art Collins, program manager for SBA's Subcontracting Assistance Program.

'The system will give us the ability to look at the data in two different ways, giving agencies a more complete picture of what is going on,' said Bob Taylor, SBA's ESRS project manager. 'We will be able to see the Tier 1 subcontracting as well as how much subcontracting the project is generating for all small businesses if you roll up all the tiers.'

Symplicity's two-and-a-half year contract is worth $1.2 million.

ESRS will use Symplicity's forms software and Management Information System on the front end and connect to agency and vendor systems using Web services. Vendors will use Extensible Markup Language forms to submit information that will be stored in an open-source MySQL database. The application resides on a Linux server running the Apache Web server.

ESRS will integrate with numerous systems, including the Central Contractor Registration and Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation systems.

GSA will test the system this summer with as many as 12 vendors and agencies, Warrington said. GSA, however, has not decided which vendors or agencies will participate in the pilot or when it will start.

Symplicity must finish the initial operating capability by late June, which includes integrating with the FPDS-NG so contracts that require subcontracting plans would automatically be entered into ESRS.

'All of this information was previously collected on paper,' Warrington said. 'The agency small-business directors collected this information and entered [it] into modules in the old FPDS. In the future, contractors will create the data once and enter it into the ESRS.'

Warrington said the system's full capability should be in place by the end of September.

The full capability includes collecting subcontracting data from specific contracts and the preceding subcontracting levels.

Warrington said other subcontracting reporting systems will be shut down as ESRS is implemented by agencies.

The summary data will be available to the public initially, but GSA has not determined whether the more specific contract-by-contract data will be available to the general public, Warrington said.

'The information will be more accurate and timely,' he said. 'We are going to the source for the information instead of it being passed through to someone else to enter it. The system also checks the validation of the math or that the vendor entered information into the right part of the form.'

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