Agencies enter the home stretch for HSPD-12
GSA, NBC scramble to finalize shared services as Oct. 27 deadline draws near
- By Rob Thormeyer
- Sep 22, 2006
We don't take overriding a protest-stay lightly, but this is something we thought was very important.' Jim WIlliams, GSA
T-minus 32 and counting. That's how many days agencies have until Oct. 27, the deadline to begin issuing Personal Identity Verification cards.
As the White House mandate draws closer, the General Services Administration and the Interior Department's National Business Center are working feverishly to put the finishing touches on their separate shared-services-provider offerings'the key piece for many agencies who hope to comply with Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.
Although officials at both agencies are confident they will meet next month's deadline, they and their customers know it is an uphill battle.
'We're all stressed, but I think we're going to get there,' said John Nyce, assistant director of administrative operations at NBC, at a recent Interagency Smart Card Advisory Board meeting in Washington.
Mike Butler, chairman of the Government Smart Card Interagency Advisory Board, who is on detail to GSA from the Defense Department, agreed.
'There's lots of work going on, certification and accreditation has to be done, but everybody is at least moving north,' he said at the IAB meeting.
By now, most everyone involved should know what is supposed to happen on Oct. 27: Under HSPD-12, agencies must have the capability to begin issuing PIV cards to contractors and new employees in at least one location.
While agencies are free to meet this mandate alone'and several have opted for this route'the Office of Management and Budget is encouraging them to sign up with either of the shared-services offerings run by GSA or NBC.
The problem, though, is both of these agencies have had trouble getting their services off the ground.
Three companies are protesting GSA's August contract for managed services with BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., and it could be overturned by the Government Accountability Office.
Lockheed Martin Corp., EDS Corp. and Xtec Inc. of Miami all claimed problems with GSA's award. EDS and Xtec filed their concerns with GAO, and Lockheed filed directly with GSA.
And NBC, at press time, has yet to award a contract for its own solution. Nyce said, however, that an award was very close.
The protests over the BearingPoint contract forced GSA to stop work on the deal in late August, although Jim Williams, commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, overrode the stay. The agency restarted work on the deal Sept. 7, citing national-security concerns.
'Having worked on some of the other HSPDs [while at the Homeland Security Department], all of these were put in place by the president,' Williams said in response to criticisms for restarting the contract. 'These are homeland security presidential directives. They're important to the security of the nation, and they didn't set deadlines for HSPD-12 for nonvalid reasons.'
Industry observers, who requested anonymity, said the contract is under protest because of concerns that GSA favored BearingPoint's offer from the outset. Other bids could have provided the solution at a cheaper cost, according to these officials, who allege that GSA essentially performed a sole-source procurement.
Williams dismissed the charges. 'We don't take overriding a protest-stay lightly, but this is something we thought was very important,' he said. 'We have confidence in the award we made.'
Although the work stoppage forced GSA to miss about one week of work, officials still met the first milestone under the BearingPoint contract'testing the enrollment and credentialing product'on time.
Michel Kareis, director of GSA's HSPD-12 Managed Services Office, said the product testing was successful and the platform should be ready for a broader rollout by Oct. 20. 'We have modified some of the process to make the Oct. 20 date work,' she said. 'There is nothing that will impede us from making that date.'
NBC officials share the same sentiments, even though barely one month before the deadline, the agency is about 10 months from implementing its HSPD-12 services.
'We will be complying with [the Office of Management and Budget's] Oct. 27 mandate,' NBC's Nyce said after the IAB meeting. NBC officials have said repeatedly that they could not explain how they would meet the deadline until the contract is awarded.
Nyce said NBC envisions providing a holistic approach to HSPD-12 services, meaning that the agency will not stop at issuing the cards but rather help integrate card management systems within its customer agencies. He said the agency has gained from its experience as a shared-services provider under the Human Resources Line of Business consolidation initiative.
Once a contractor is named, the agency will plot out a 10-month strategy for issuing PIV cards for itself and its estimated 10 agency customers. NBC will issue a proof of concept for its plan four months after a winner is named. Over the following six months, the agency will run a pilot production program before fully rolling out its solution.
'We will do everything in our power with the [winning] contractor to make sure' NBC complies with the mandate, said Myra Freilich, NBC's HRLOB deputy program manager.
At the same time, Nyce said, talks with GSA over combining the agencies' HSPD-12 managed service offices were continuing.
Although no formal agreements have been reached, Nyce said that at this point, discussions were focusing on having NBC use GSA's enrollment stations as a means of cutting costs and streamlining the card enrollment process.
Nyce said NBC officials met with GSA officials, including Williams, and have an agreement in principle.
Regardless of the talks'and the challenges'NBC and GSA officials remain firm that they will meet the OMB deadline.
'I have this feeling that everyone's going to think that on Oct. 27, this big light is going to flash,' Butler said. 'It's not going to be like that. ... If we're lucky, 500 or 600 people are going to be carrying these cards. If we do that, we're successful.'