VA CIO could pass over Peaches 3 for another IT vehicle

The Veterans Affairs Department may take advantage of other contract vehicles for its next-generation, departmentwide hardware and software needs if agency staff cannot structure the planned Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software, known as Peaches 3, to contain certain provisions, according to VA's CIO.

VA plans to purchase storage, networks, security, Internet protocol communications, health care automation, documentation and data services with Peaches 3. The department released a draft request for proposals in July, but VA CIO Robert McFarland said he was not satisfied with the draft RFP.

'I'm not going to guarantee that I'm going to do a Peaches 3 until I have an understanding that this is the best way to procure the infrastructure needs of the department,' McFarland said this week. 'There's no edict to do an IDIQ [indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract]. There are lots of contracts out there that we could pursue.'

The final RFP was originally planned for February 2006, and a contract award to be made in April 2006. Those dates may be pushed out.

McFarland wants to see improvements over Peaches 2 in the organizational structure and business processes to require more accountability and reporting so IT managers can better determine the IT needs. He also wants to be sure that veterans, including disabled veterans, receive a fair share of the contract business.

'I've had lots of pressure from inside the agency not to change this construct, and I've applied pressure back that said we will do it in a good business manner or we won't do it,' he said.

With blanket purchase agreements and other governmentwide acquisition vehicles, McFarland said he can still satisfy his financial requirements and veteran-owned and small, disabled veteran-owned business requirements. The dollar volume that VA plans to spend will not change whether the contract vehicle is Peaches 3 or another vehicle.

'I'll either get Peaches 3 where it needs to be or we will use other governmentwide vehicles to solve our purchasing problem,' McFarland said.

He anticipates a gap between the end of Peaches 2 and Peaches 3 or whatever contract takes its place, but the agency will bridge that. VA will hit the $1.3 billion Peaches 2 ceiling early in 2006, he said. However, Peaches 2, which was awarded in 2002, expires in 2007.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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