FAA: We'd run another buy like ICE-MAN for good deal

USDA will begin work on the $250 million FAA Integrated Computing Environment-Mainframe
and Networking contract this week. Dennis DeGaetano, deputy associate administrator of FAA
for research and acquisition, last week defended the ICE-MAN procurement process as

"Back in the early fall when we were considering recompeting the Computer
Resources Nucleus con-

tract, a number of government agencies were interested," he said.

"We discussed it. We were well aware of some of the issues, but in this set of
circumstances it made sense" to let agencies compete against vendors, he said.

DeGaetano said government and industry should not compete for every contract. But
government has a history of using cross-servicing agreements to handle the type of data
processing services planned under ICE-MAN, he said.

USDA's history of providing payroll and computing services to other federal agencies
qualified it to compete for the contract, DeGaetano said.

Anne Thomson Reed, Agriculture's chief information officer, said government competition
is a good way to keep costs low. And she too called it nothing new.

"Look at the USDA's National Finance Center," she said. "We provide
service to over 100 organizations."

FAA scrutinized the USDA just as it would any vendor bidding for work at the agency,
DeGaetano said.

"We looked at past performance," he said. "We called USDA customers, and
they were all satisfied with the services they were receiving from the agency."

USDA scored as well as the vendors that bid on ICE-MAN in the areas of technical
ability and past performance, he said. The area that pushed USDA over the top was price,
DeGaetano added.

But vendors complained to FAA that lower overhead costs gave USDA an unfair advantage
in the competition.

DeGaetano said after receiving the complaints, FAA suspended the contract and looked at
how USDA would have competed using Circular A-76 guidelines.

Circular A-76 is an Office of Management and Budget policy document that advises
federal agencies on assessing whether work can be performed less expensively under an
outside contract. DeGaetano said the A-76 formula makes agencies more vendors in
competitions by eliminating some government advantages.

But even after the A-76 comparison, USDA was still the best value, he said.

Reed said agencies could provide more efficient services by creating unfunded
suborganizations that compete to survive.

"By regulation, they have to recoup their costs," she said. "So they
function as businesses."

Agency cross-servicing agreements have been around for decades, especially those
covering such routine data processing tasks as payroll and personnel.

But some government analysts said the FAA's decision to keep ICE-MAN in government runs
contrary to the White House's long-standing effort to streamline government operations and
turn common commercial tasks over to industry.

"This seems to be running in the face of Congress' push for outsourcing,"
said Robert Deller, vice president of federal research for Global Systems & Strategies
of Potomac, Md.

"Its size also raises questions," he said.

"It is a mammoth contract, and can the government actually perform?" Deller

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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