VA needs time to get Peaches 3 right

The Veterans Affairs Department has been wrestling with a final request for proposals for its next-generation department-wide hardware and software contract. VA CIO Robert McFarland wants to get it right, so it may take longer than planned.

VA will purchase storage, networks, security, Internet protocol communications, health care automation, e-business, online documentation and data services with the Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software contract, known as Peaches 3.

VA recently released a draft solicitation for Peaches 3, but McFarland doesn't want to duplicate weaknesses in the Peaches 2 contract.

'It is not an effective contract,' he said of Peaches 2 at an event today sponsored by the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council in Washington.

Peaches 2 did not require enough information and accountability, such as breaking down aggregate data to specific categories and statistics so managers could better plan where the IT needs were.

McFarland isn't satisfied with the draft RFP and said agreement is lacking among the program, procurement and CIO's offices.

'We have to work out our own issues internally before I'm going to be ready to go prime time. There's no wine before its time,' he said.

A sense of urgency, however, hovers over the procurement. Peaches 2 will hit its dollar ceiling of about $1.3 billion close to the first of the year, according to McFarland. Peaches 2, which was awarded in 2002, expires in 2007.

VA now anticipates putting out the final solicitation in mid-February 2006 instead of the previously planned fall 2005. VA will provide a second industry day Nov. 30 to discuss changes in the proposed contract's requirements, it said in a recent posting.

Peaches 3 will consist of one base year and four one-year options, and is expected to be valued at about $1.4 billion. The multiple-award contract also will be used to purchase radio frequency and infrared technologies, wireless technology, imaging, voice-activated computers, personal digital assistants and office automation software advances. The hardware requirement includes both purchase and leasing of IT equipment.

VA plans to award a significant piece of Peaches 3 to veteran-owned business, McFarland said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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