GSA, Interior mull shared-services pact

Merger could cut the price of PIV cards

We're at a stage where both organizations ... are reaching the conclusion that this is really the right thing to do.' Doug Bourgeois, NBC director

Olivier Douliery

Two of the leading providers of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 services are closing in on a merger deal.

No, not Lockheed Martin Corp. and another company.

This is a merger aimed at giving agencies the experience of a shared-services provider, and volume discounts.

The General Services Administration and the Interior Department's National Business Center are close to integrating their separate shared-services offerings to help agencies meet the HSPD-12 deadline, federal officials said.

Doug Bourgeois, NBC director, said that although nothing had been finalized, the talks were well beyond preliminary.

'We're at a stage where both organizations have rolled up their sleeves and ... are reaching the conclusion that this is really the right thing to do,' he said.

The talks are coming at a critical stage for HSPD-12, which requires agencies to begin issuing interoperable Personal Identity Verification cards to employees and contractors by Oct. 27. The cards will give employees access to federal buildings and, eventually, computer systems.

Merger possibilities

While about 10 large agencies, including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, State and Veterans Affairs, are attempting to meet the deadline alone, more than 30 agencies will be looking to join up with a shared-services provider.

The agencies are talking about a merger now because NBC is scheduled to award a contract for support services this month. If NBC goes ahead with the award, the organization would be competing with GSA for federal customers.

This could be problematic because the GSA contract is built around economies of scale, meaning that the price goes down as more agencies sign up.

GSA last month established its Managed Service Office and awarded BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., a five-year, $104 million contract for turnkey solutions that the agency hopes will help agencies begin enrolling employees and contractors and issue smart cards on a phased-in basis [GCN, Aug. 28, Page 7]. That contract award is being protested by several losing bidders (see story below).

Mike Butler, the chairman of the Government Smart Card Interagency Advisory Board who is on detail at GSA from the Defense Department, said at a recent meeting that GSA had finalized the pricing under its contract with BearingPoint. It also was starting to share those numbers with potential customers.

At the same time, NBC formally launched its own shared-services offerings last month to provide agencies either fully integrated or piecemeal HSPD-12 services.

Drawing on its experience as a center of excellence providing human resources services to other agencies, Bourgeois said providing HSPD-12 offerings is a natural extension.

'You really could look at HSPD-12 and embrace it as an HR offering,' he said.
The agency currently is evaluating responses to a solicitation it issued in late July for HSPD-12 products and services that will resemble GSA's contract with BearingPoint, Bourgeois said.

NBC hopes to make an award this month, he added.

As GSA finalized the pricing scheme on its contract, and NBC evaluated responses to its RFP, the agencies began discussing whether it made more sense to team up rather than compete for the same customer base, officials said.

During the IAB meeting, Butler said the agencies have talked about sharing infrastructure as a way to reduce costs, such as NBC using GSA's enrollment stations.

'We have no firm agreement, but we're talking about it,' he said. 'If we can make these agreements, we can shave $15 off a credential.'

Neither Butler or Bourgeois could provide further specifics about the talks, as both noted that NBC has yet to award a contract for its solicitation and is unable to compare its offerings with the GSA vehicle.

Bourgeois, though, said he is 'cautiously optimistic' that the agencies will reach a deal. 'We're making progress, getting closer,' he said. 'But its not done until it's done.'

Continuing discussions

Jim Williams, commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, last week was scheduled to meet with NBC officials to continue the discussions, a GSA spokesman said.

Industry observers said that a union between the two agencies makes sense, although NBC's customers might actually be in a better position than GSA's.

'NBC already provides these services [under the HR LOB initiative] to agencies and has customers, they already can provide that capability' of issuing cards and enrolling new employees, said an industry official who requested anonymity. 'I'm not sure what GSA can offer to NBC customers.'


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