Still no agreement on enrollment stations

'Imminent' GSA-NBC deal has been discussed for months, but multiple vendors, other issues keep accord talks going

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Negotiations make strange bedfellows.

Just ask those attempting to broker a deal between the General Services Administration and the Interior Department's National Business Center, both of whom are Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 shared-services providers.

Under HSPD-12, agencies were required to begin issuing the new cards by Oct. 27; all government employees must have the cards by October 2008.

The two agencies have been negotiating for months to see if they can share identity card enrollment and issuance stations at different locations across the country as a means to cut some costs and expedite the process [GCN.com/710].

If the agencies can share the costs of staffing and maintaining enrollment stations throughout the country, the new cards could be issued faster and at a much lower cost.

GSA and NBC officials over the past several weeks have stated an agreement is 'imminent,' but sources close to the talks say that a number of issues are complicating the situation.

For one, both agencies were competing for the same customers.

Also, NBC and GSA have taken different approaches to meeting the HSPD-12 mandate. GSA's solution is focused mainly on enrolling employees and issuing the cards, while NBC's is a broader approach that corresponds with its service offerings under the Human Resources Line of Business.

Because NBC has a more 'holistic approach,' the agencies have to find a solution that can enroll both of their customers simultaneously while also ensuring that NBC's customers receive their additional requirements, officials said.

Finally, NBC and GSA have hired different vendors. GSA tapped BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., in August to set up enrollment and issuance stations around the country, while NBC in early October signed up IBM Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp.
This situation could be complicated by GSA's decision last week to cancel the remaining options under its agreement with BearingPoint (see story, next page). GSA instead will recompete the contract.

Getting the vendors to work together on the enrollment stations has complicated the talks as well, officials said.

'The government is going to have to force the three vendors to accept that,' said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'The government agencies are going to have to work together on this.'

Still, officials are optimistic that an agreement will be reached.

Doug Bourgeois, NBC director, said a deal is close and that the agencies are 'tinkering around the wording' of the agreement. 'It's not done until it is done, but it is imminent,' he said.

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