IAE takes its own advice
2008 GCN Award winner: After consolidating systems, GSA program looks to reduce its own size<@VM>SIDEBAR: Next step: A service-oriented architecture
- By David Perera
- Oct 17, 2008
HALF A DECADE IS A LONG TIME when measured at a digital pace.
But recall, if you can, the era before the President's
Management Agenda launched 24 e-government projects in 2002. There
were a lot of uncoordinated and duplicated efforts, a lack of data
standards, and a variety of commercial and incompatible systems. In
short, a mess.
So when the government looked for sure-fire e-government projects
to turn pan-government muddles into cross-government solutions, one
no-brainer was procurement-related systems. Hence the Integrated
Acquisition Environment, a General Services Administration-led
effort that coalesced the procurement world into nine
IAE 'just makes life so much easier for the
government,' said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of
One of the nine IAE systems is the Central Contractor
Registration database, which started life as a Defense
Department-only system. It also includes the Excluded Parties List
System, a searchable and downloadable database of individuals and
companies suspended or debarred from doing business with the
And there's the Federal Business Opportunities Web site,
one-stop Web site for information on upcoming government
procurements worth more than $25,000. The site underwent some
significant changes in 2008.
A new version of FedBizOpps was finally unveiled in April after
it was delayed for years by vendor protests. And as a result,
'the initial migration was not pretty,' said Chris
Fornecker, director of GSA's office of acquisition systems.
'The short version is that as a result of the protests, the
cooperation between old and new vendors was poor. But once
stabilized, most everything I've heard is very
positive,' he added.
Protests aside, IAE fulfilled its original mission and began
taking it a step further this year, particularly with
The President's Management Agenda directed IAE to
integrate and streamline the acquisition processes, which it did.
But within the nine IAE systems, there was still redundancy,
'even on just mundane things like user registration,'
A program charged with trimming fat was called on to shed some
of its own weight.
Officials started with the Federal Technical Data Solutions
system, known as FedTeds, which agencies use to disseminate
technical drawings, specifications and other post-award sensitive
material to vendors. From a technical point of view, the system
closely resembles FedBizOpps, Fornecker said. Both distribute
documents, so why not aggregate them?
The new FedBizOpps released April 1 is a new system. 'It
did not leverage the original code. It was built from the ground
up,' Fornecker said. That gave IAE officials the opportunity
to kill two birds with one stone.
IAE operated from the start with an adoptadapt- acquire approach
to technology. In fiscal 2008, it added aggregate to that list.
'It was easy to collapse [FedBizOpps and FedTeds] by
simply adding a few tables to the database for some additional
information,' Fornecker said. 'Most of what was being
done was duplicative. It wasn't that big a deal.'
The result is that IAE now operates two systems basically for
the price of one.
Aggregating FedBizOpps with FedTeds promises to be just the
first technological restructuring of IAE, which will migrate to a
service-oriented architecture supported by a single operations and
'We frankly don't need nine databases,' he
added, 'we probably can get by with one and just add tables
and data elements to capture some of the unique services [of ] some
of these systems.'
It was the successful combination of Fed- BizOpps with FedTeds
that gave IAE officials the confidence to go ahead with a SOA
approach, said Earl Warrington, director of the IAE systems
division. 'The test there was 'Could we do it?'
And the answer was 'Yes we could,' ' he said.
The General Services Administration’s Integrated
Acquisition Environment is fairly heterogeneous. The Federal
Business Opportunities Web site, for example, is scripted via PHP.
Programmers built the Federal Procurement Data System using Java
and put an Oracle database underneath it.
“We’re all over the map in terms of what we have
today, which adds complexity and expense to operations and
maintenance,” said Chris Fornecker, director of GSA’s
office of acquisition systems.
That should change during the next four to five years, as IAE
migrates to a service-oriented architecture, the first steps of
which IAE undertook when it released the new version of FedBizOpps
April 1. The system combined FedBizOpps with the Federal Technical
Data Solutions system (FedTeds), but it also included a user
registration service that could become a reusable component for the
IAE SOA, said Earl Warrington, director of the IAE systems
division. “This is where we knew we had something
going,” he added.
Other IAE systems also have services that could become reusable
components, such as the Wage Determinations OnLine system’s
The new FedBizOpps is a Linux system using Apache Web servers,
MySQL relational database management and scripted with PHP. The
only glitch in combining FedBizOpps with FedTeds was in reconciling
different registration processes, IAE officials said.
“We had to normalize that procedure so that you had a
front end that was consistent whether you were going to use FedTeds
or whether you were going to use” FedBizOpps, Warrington