GSA plans $100M contract to consolidate acquisition environment

GSA aims for better data quality but also has some problems with integrating eight databases into a single platform.

An award could come as early as October for a contract to consolidate eight General Services Admnistration acqusition-related databases into a single platform. Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer,  told the Senate that the Integrated Acquisition Environment will improve data quality, access and usability.

“GSA is engaged in a rearchitecting and consolidation of IAE to develop the integrated procurement platform of the future,” Kundra said at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's ad hoc subcommittee on contracting oversight Sept. 29.

GSA intends to award the IAE design and architecture contract in October. It is valued at approximately $100 million over three years, according to Input Inc., a market research firm based in Reston, Va.

However, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) chairwoman of the subcommittee, said some key issues remain in determining who is in charge of the IAE development project, its policies and how it will proceed.

“We’re still at the very early stages of the development of this project," McCaskill said. "Now is the time for us to look forward, to ask tough questions before the government gets embroiled in a costly contract that may not be the best way forward."

She urged Kundra, who also is head of the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of E-Government and Information Technology, to maintain OMB's involvement and leadership in the consolidation project to ensure its success in meeting transparency and accessibility goals.

The IAE project began in 2001 to standardize and digitize paper-based procurement data governmentwide. Acquisition-related information currently is available online in eight databases that include the Federal Procurement Data System, Central Contractor Registration, Excluded Parties List and Past Performance Information Retrieval System. The other systems are Federal Business Opportunities, Wage Determinations Online, Online Representations and Certifications Application, and Electronic Subcontracting reporting System.

However, the current systems show weaknesses, William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, testified.

Data are not always accurate, agencies do not always document required information, and technical limitations reduce the effectiveness of the contracting systems, Woods said. For example, only about a third of the contracts in the performance information retrieval system have performance data. Also, the GAO found cases in which contracts were awarded to excluded contractors because of problems with the system’s search function.

“Unfortunately, current contracting databases are disjointed, antiquated, at times redundant, and extremely difficult to use,” said Adam Hughes, director of federal fiscal policy for OMB Watch, a watchdog group. “The menagerie of data systems do not deliver accurate, timely, and useful information and create significant obstacles for use by government contracting officials and watchdogs.”

Meanwhile, transparency efforts that include too much public disclosure of sensitive contracting data pose risks of harmful consequences to the contractors, said Trey Hodgkins, vice president of national security and procurement policy for TechAmerica, a trade organization for IT contractors.