GSA to shutter data centers; Unisys gets jobs

The General Services Administration will shut its three main data centers and turn
future work over to Unisys Corp.


GSA officials will use the agency's present GSA Systems (GSAS) contract with Unisys as
the vehicle for outsourcing the mostly mainframe applications that support the Public
Buildings Service and the Federal Supply Service.


A long-time contractor to GSA, Unisys has built most of GSA's mainframe infrastructure,
and most of the work it will take on already runs on Unisys systems [see box].


At the Public Buildings Service, Unisys will take over the PBS Information System,
Fleet Management System, Transportation Accounts Received/Payable System and Application
System for Post-Payment Audit. Several of the Federal Supply Service's mainframe systems,
including its Customer Supply Center, also will be taken over by Unisys.


The move to outsourcing will comply with the Office of Management and Budget's
directive telling agencies to consolidate their data centers. OMB has asked all agencies
to submit plans for eliminating smaller data center operations; the goal is to reduce the
government's 200 centers by half.


The Unisys requirements contract provides GSA with a range of computer systems and
services across platforms from PCs to mainframes.


A final outsourcing plan has not been adopted, so it is yet unclear how Unisys will
handle the transition. But GSA administrator David Barram said an internal review found
GSA spent too much on routine computer operations and should devote more resources to
service programs.


"Our benchmarks revealed that we were overstaffed and that we cost too much
compared to the private information management industry. So we are making changes to fix
that," Barram said. "We have eliminated some old mainframe operations, closed
some small data centers and consolidated others, and now are issuing a procurement request
to outsource all computer operations."


Barram hinted at the new computer infrastructure scheme at a recent outsourcing
conference GSA hosted in Washington.


GSA has tried to stay at the forefront of federal streamlining and reinvention efforts,
as evidenced by its use of buyouts to trim staff and its consolidation of Multiple-Award
Schedule programs under the Federal Supply Service.


Former GSA Administrator Roger Johnson launched the Federal Operations Review Model
(FORM) in January 1995 to help assess GSA's data processing costs and determine what, if
any, computer work should remain inside the agency and what should go to another agency or
vendor.


The review covered all of GSA's hardware and software, personnel, wide area network
applications, data centers and computer platforms except for LANs, office automation and
e-mail.


Using the FORM study and other analyses, GSA concluded that its ratio of people to
millions of instructions per second was 2.5 times higher than average. GSA also discovered
that its ratio of total computing costs to MIPS was three times greater than a comparable
private-sector operation.


GSA expects to spend about $18 million on FSS and PBS computer operations this fiscal
year. FSS' mainframes, in Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Worth, Texas, are run by GSA's IT
Service. PBS manages its own mainframes in Washington.


Meanwhile, GSA officials still are grappling with how best to handle the
cost-reimbursable contracting programs under the Office of IT Integration.


GSA has 308 full-time-equivalent jobs and $345 million devoted to running the Federal
Information Systems Support Program, the Federal Systems Integration and Management
program and the Federal Computer Acquisition Center.


The FORM study found a high customer satisfaction rate for these ITI programs and
estimated that ITI provided consulting services at rates lower than those in other
agencies and much lower than on the open market.


But ITI usually takes longer to procure services than do its federal or industry
counterparts.


No decisions have been made about ITI's future, but GSA officials are considering three
options: creating a new government corporation, outsourcing the programs, or transferring
employees and functions to another agency.



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