Outsourcing program improves operations, NASA official says

Outsourcing program improves operations, NASA official says

Initiative's director says asset management and network support are better but users are still balking

By Frank Tiboni
GCN Staff






Learning as they go along are the team members of the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA: from left, Mark Hagerty, Maury Sweetin, Tor Opsahl and Phil Davis.



One year after awarding the first contracts under the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA, the agency has streamlined asset management and network support, but user buy-in has taken longer than expected, a NASA official said.

'The new acquisition process has definitely been a positive,'' said Mark Hagerty, NASA's ODIN program manager. 'We no longer have government people buying computers, because the vendors are doing it.''

NASA awarded nine-year contracts worth a total of $13 billion to seven vendors last June for outsourcing its hardware, software and management support services. The vendors are Computer Sciences Corp.; DynCorp of Reston, Va.; FDC Technologies Inc. of Bethesda, Md.; Intellisource of Vienna, Va.; OAO Corp. of Greenbelt, Md.; Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego; and Wang Federal Systems of McLean, Va. The contracts have one base year and eight one-year options [GCN, June 22, 1998, Page 3].

Outsourcing information technology services has also led to better maintenance of NASA systems, Hagerty said.

'From an operational perspective, things are working very well,'' he said.

NASA awarded the first contract under ODIN last October when OAO received a $154.9 million task order to provide desktop PC, server and communication services to the Johnson, Kennedy and Stennis space centers and the Marshall Space Flight Center. Also that month, the agency awarded a $19.6 million task order to Intellisource to take over Goddard's desktop PC operations [GCN, Nov. 9, 1998, Page 1].

The Health Care Financing Administration was the first agency outside of NASA to use ODIN for seat management [GCN, May 3, Page 3]. HCFA in July awarded a three-year, $40 million contract to SAIC to manage 4,000 seats, Hagerty said.

NASA's next ODIN rollout will be in March in Washington. In the summer and fall of 2000, the space agency will roll out the program at its four research centers: Glenn and Dryden on July 1, Ames on Oct. 1, and Langley on Nov. 1, Hagerty said.

Getting on track

Tor Opsahl, vice president of Intellisource's aerospace and enterprise systems division, agrees with Hagerty that ODIN has improved NASA's asset management and network support.

'ODIN lets both sides better track resources and system configurations,'' Opsahl said. 'From a network perspective at Goddard, it has gone better than expected because we have people on our staff who used to work there, so they know the area and the services the center needs.''

Maury Sweetin, vice president of OAO's office of space flight enterprise, concedes that the company still has a lot to learn in implementing the basic ODIN model.

'It's a new experiment for both us and NASA, but we like what we're seeing,'' Sweetin said.

Because the model calls for a platform upgrade every three years, NASA users retain technology parity. By providing centralized maintenance at all sites, vendors accept the responsibility of handling problems at their PCs'all positives, Sweetin said.

The NASA centers get three performance levels of PCs under ODIN, with the levels changing each fiscal quarter. OAO has supplied Compaq Computer Corp. hardware at all levels for Johnson, Kennedy, Stennis and Marshall, with Intellisource furnishing both Compaq and Apple Computer Inc. hardware for Goddard, he said.

For example, the four centers received 450-MHz Pentium III Compaq Deskpro 6450s running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 98 with 64M of RAM and 13.5G hard drives under NASA's high-end service requirement for fourth-quarter fiscal 1999. Goddard also received Compaq 6450s and 333-MHz Apple iMacs running Mac OS 8.6 with 64M of RAM and 6G hard drives, and a 350-MHz Apple PowerPC running Mac OS 8.6 with 64M of RAM and a 6G hard drive, Hagerty said.

SAIC has furnished IBM Corp. hardware for HCFA, he said.

Despite better asset management and network support, ODIN vendors can improve on service delivery and customer satisfaction, Hagerty said.

'There have been some bumps the moment problems have arisen,'' said Hagerty, noting that help desk support has received mixed reviews from NASA users.

The customer satisfaction problem may be attributed to cultural issues within the space agency, Hagerty said.'NASA users 'don't own'' the computers anymore, he said. 'They can't open a PC magazine anymore and request that computer. They've lost control. It's emotional control.''

Opsahl acknowledged that some problems result from a lack of communication among vendors, Hagerty and NASA users.

'We can't communicate enough here,'' Opsahl said.

'We're trying everything'town halls, newsletters, Web sites'and we're making good progress in this area,'' he said.

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