NASA to outsource all computer maintenance

GREENBELT, Md. - Under the impetus of its administrator, Daniel Goldin, leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are outsourcing the maintenance of all their personal computers and high-end workstations.

By John Rhea

GREENBELT, Md. - Under the impetus of its administrator, Daniel Goldin, leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are outsourcing the maintenance of all their personal computers and high-end workstations.

This effort is expected to be a 10-year, multi-billion-dollar contract package. The project is known as the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN). Managing the project are officials at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the initial selection of contractors is expected in June.

This is not a winner-take-all competition, explains Al Hobelmann, vice president for business development at one of the competitors, RMS Information Systems in Vienna, Va.

In the first phase, NASA officials will downselect from the reported seven contractor teams to what amounts to a qualified list of three or four service providers. Then leaders of the 10 NASA field centers and NASA headquarters will select their own providers from the list. Thus, a company could conceivably get in under the umbrella on the first round and not win any of the subsequent individual awards.

NASA officials originally estimated the magnitude of the job at $1 billion, but that estimate has since risen to more than $5 billion based on increased contractor participation. The winning contractor teams will take over all the maintenance of some 50,000 NASA computers, but not their actual operation.

However, under terms of the individual contracts, the maintenance providers will continually supply new hardware so that the maintenance will be transparent to the NASA users. This was essentially Goldin`s approach when he earlier awarded a contract to the United Space Alliance to assume responsibility for all Space Shuttle operations.

The schedule calls for Goddard and the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Johnson Space Center in Houston to be on board the ODIN program by October with the remaining field centers and NASA headquarters to follow next year.

Also as part of Goldin`s plan, NASA officials will need no new congressional appropriations since the money will simply transfer from in-house expenditures to contractor support; there will be no change in the number of personnel operating the computers. These range from small personal computers for routine administrative functions to Unix workstations for high-end scientific computation.

The other six bidding teams, all based in the Washington area, are reported to be headed by Computer Sciences Corp. in Fairfax, Va.; Boeing Computer Services in Vienna, Va.; FDC Technologies in Vienna, Va.; Wang Federal in McLean, Va.; OAO in Greenbelt, Md.; and Dyncorp. in Reston Va.

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