GSA's FirstGov RFQ shows plan to switch to Web-based searches

The General Services Administration is taking a new approach to pump up FirstGov.gov's weak search capabilities, and it should be in place by next February.

Under a request for quotes issued late last month, GSA intends to award a blanket purchase agreement to three or more vendors for delivery, operation and development of search engine services for the federal government's Web site.

Proposals are due July 20; GSA expects to award the potential five-year contract by Sept. 19. The winning vendor would have 90 days from award to deploy and test the new search capabilities, with a launch date no later than Feb. 1, 2006. GSA also expects the winning vendor to add news and image search capabilities by April 2006.

Currently, A&T Government Markets of Washington hosts FirstGov and provides security services, while Fast Search and Transfer Inc. of Foster City, Calif., a subcontractor to AT&T, provides the search engine. The contract is worth $2 million annually; GSA awarded it in March 2002.

In answers to vendor questions released yesterday, GSA said the new contract is different than the previous one.

'The government's intent is to replace the current enterprise-based search service with new Web-based search services,' GSA said in a posting on FedBizOpps.gov.

GSA added that it 'seeks to leverage existing commercial search services ' rather than acquiring managed IT professional services to which search services are subcontracted.'

The prime contractors' main line of business should be Internet search, GSA said.

FirstGov is used by about 100 domains and receives 3 million queries a month, the agency added said.

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