NASA IG looks into Internet services buy

NASA’s award of a $2.9 million Internet services contract to a vendor that last
year gave the agency free Web site service has prompted a review of the buy by the NASA
inspector general.


NASA last month awarded PSINet Inc. of Herndon, Va., the five-year Managed Internet
Services contract to maintain Web sites and Net services at Johnson Space Center in
Houston.


But Johnson officials deny allegations—posted on the Web site of the watchdog
organization NASA Watch—that PSINet received preferential treatment.


“In no way was it a straight-through deal,” said Kelly Humphries, a Johnson
public affairs officer responsible for managing the space center’s site.


Johnson conducted a full-and-open competition for the Managed Internet Services
contract—a process that yielded 14 valid proposals, Humphries said.


“We chose PSINet because it had the best price and performance for the
government,” he said, adding that none of the 13 other companies that competed for
the contract filed a protest.


But Keith Cowing, NASA Watch editor, said he is not so sure.


“I find it interesting that a company can offer to provide a service to the
government for free,” he said. “Then presto, they’re the best qualified to
provide that service, a procurement comes out, and they win.”


Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Space
and Aeronautics, also questioned the procurement and the operation of the Web site. His
inquiry has prompted the IG review of the buy.


The IG will also assess the policies for Johnson’s and NASA’s Web sites. The
office expects to issue its findings in the next 30 to 60 days, said David Cushing, a NASA
assistant IG for inspections.


According to NASA Watch’s Cowing, Johnson released a request for proposals Dec. 4,
accepted bids Dec. 16 and had planned to award the contract Dec. 18 with work beginning
Jan. 1.


“All of this procurement was done in less than a month and was rushed into place
just before the holidays,” said Cowing, who formerly worked for four years as a
manager of pressurized payload accommodations for the NASA Space Station Freedom Program
Office in Reston, Va.


Johnson officials said the agency released the first version of the RFP Nov. 23, with
proposals due on Dec. 16. The center amended the RFP a couple of times because companies
had submitted questions.


The agency awarded the Managed Internet Services contract on Jan. 15 and work began the
following day. The center made the contract plan available on the NASA Acquisition
Internet Service Web site at http://www.nais.msfc.nasa.gov/eps/.



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