NSA: Outsourcing plan won't disrupt IT force

NSA: Outsourcing plan won't disrupt IT force

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

The National Security Agency's plan to outsource non-mission-critical systems will affect far fewer of the agency's employees than originally expected.

The secretive agency will ask roughly 750 of its information technology workers to accept employment with the winner of the multibillion-dollar Project Groundbreaker outsourcing contract, an NSA spokesman said.

NSA announced last year that 1,500 employees could be moved, but since that time, some have retired, while others have moved on to other positions within NSA or other agencies, the spokesman said. 'The disruption to NSA's employees and the IT mission will be minimal,' the spokesman said, adding that 'no government persons will lose their employment under the Groundbreaker Program.'

NSA officials are reviewing proposals submitted by three teams of vendors on employment packages that would go to agency workers who made the switch. The agency, which serves as the signals intelligence arm of the Defense Department and specializes in spying and breaking codes, expects to award the contract July 31.

Competing for the 10-year contract are teams led by AT&T Corp., Computer Sciences Corp. and OAO Corp. of Greenbelt, Md. The agency will outsource its desktop automation, general-purpose processing, e-mail, IT customer support, telecommunications, and enterprise and security management.

There was a time when NSA employees were reluctant to even acknowledge where they worked. The agency, based at Fort Meade, Md., kept even routine information closely held, especially its IT infrastructure, said Ray Bjorklund, a vice president of Federal Sources Inc., a market research and consulting firm in McLean, Va.

'NSA never talks about anything and has always kept [IT operations] within the family,' Bjorklund said. 'It's time to think differently.'

Agency officials said they realize that the private sector is better suited to develop and sustain IT operations that are not part of NSA's core mission, freeing up the agency's highly trained IT workers to concentrate on mission-critical areas.

'NSA is addressing the technology explosion of the past decade,' the spokesman said. 'As an agency in transition, it will adopt best practices from industry that will improve and modernize its missions for safeguarding the nation's security.'

This won't be the first time NSA has outsourced systems. In 1998, NSA awarded CSC a five-year, $20 million contract known as Project Breakthrough to maintain 20 legacy software applications and provide hardware and software upgrades.

Nonetheless, the latest effort is a significant breakthrough for NSA, Bjorklund said. 'I think what NSA leadership has seen as an opportunity to outsource some of the IT functions is based on the kind of favorable experiences that the rest of DOD has had with IT outsourcing,' he said.

A positive move

William S. Carrier, vice president of business development for Logicon Inc., agreed. 'It's a new frontier for NSA, and I think they're very brave and very smart to head in this direction,' he said.

Logicon, a Reston, Va., subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp., is one of several subcontractors on the CSC team. In addition to Northrop Grumman, the CSC group includes General Dynamics Corp., Keane Inc. of Boston and TRW Inc.

The primary members of the OAO team are Electronic Data Systems Corp.; Getronics Inc. of Billerica, Mass.; Coleman Research Corp. of Fairfax, Va.; ManTech International Corp., also of Fairfax; and Global Crossing Ltd. of Bermuda.

Among AT&T's partners are IBM Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

The contract could become the second-largest government outsourcing contract in history. Last year, the Navy awarded a $6.9 billion contract to Electronic Data Systems Corp. for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program.

Groundbreaker is the result of a 15-month NSA study to determine if the agency's IT infrastructure needs could be met more efficiently through outsourcing.

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