GSA pushes PC rentals

Rather than having agencies buy and install their own PCs, hardware, software and
peripherals, the General Services Administration is drafting a seat management procurement
plan that would let them outfit federal users with a full array of desktop computing tools
through a stable of service vendors.


"It's a concept whose time has come in government," said John Ortego, deputy
assistant commissioner of GSA for information technology. "We can no longer afford to
maintain these desktop computers be they for general purposes, scientific or engineering
purposes. There's a tremendous hidden cost in keeping this infrastructure going in
government."


Ortego said that within the year, agencies will be able to buy suites of desktop tools
and services based on individual user needs and office requirements. Agencies will pay for
the technology and services monthly but will not take ownership.


The Office of IT is modeling the new multiple-award, task-order buy after
governmentwide contracts for virtual data center and disaster recovery services. Agencies
will pay for the technology and services monthly but will not take ownership.


"Agencies now pay for the desktop machine, buy and install the hardware and
software, pay for people pulling cables and help desk support. By the time we get a
machine up and running smoothly, its time to upgrade," Ortego said.


GSA officials already have tacit approval for the seat management strategy from the
Office of Management and Budget and now are talking with potential agency customers.


The agency wants a final plan ready by late spring and expects the procurement will
take about 10 months, Ortego said.


He acknowledged that the new approach requires answers to questions about privacy,
personnel management and use of the federal government's existing microcomputer assets.


"The concept is totally different, and it changes the relationship between
industry and government in the way we buy [computer wares] as a service rather than a
product," Ortego said. "It has a lot of impact on human resources because you
can really see how much one of these seats is costing you. An agency can see its
investments much more clearly."


Ortego said the master contract will not likely contain any specific hardware or
software requirements. The awards will be based on a vendor's service capabilities, proven
ability to manage assets and labor hours.


GSA will specify hardware requirements in task orders and an upgrade schedule to follow
the initial vendor selections.


"If we put hardware and software in the initial proposal, it will be
obsolete," Ortego said. "I want to separate those from the master contract and
handle them at the task-order level. We want to place requests for products much closer to
the actual delivery."


Agencies have been using a similar multiple-award formula in recent
indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts. But some industry analysts and vendor
representatives questioned whether agencies have the appetite for such a PC commodities
smorgasbord.


"There are concerns about the proliferation of procurement programs. How many
times can you slice the federal IT pie?" said Larry Allen, executive director of the
Coalition for Government Procurement in Washington. "Contractors want to play
wherever they can, but their resources are spread thin, and it becomes a matter of which
horses you should back."


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