Two RFPs to get ATF prepared for mobile computing

Thursday - 8/4/2011, 8:04pm EDT

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will issue two major technology contracts in the coming months. But the major change ATF is planning for has nothing to do with these procurements.

Rick Holgate, ATF's assistant director for science and technology and chief information officer, said agents in the field need to have the technology and the access to data and to applications in the field using mobile devices.

"Our workforce is highly mobile," Holgate said. "Of our 5,000 employees, about half are special agents and 700-to-800 are industry operations investigators who spend most of their time on the scene. So a large portion of our workforce works outside the office so giving them the tools to operate effectively is important."

ATF is in the second phase of a pilot program, using Apple devices. But Holgate said he wants to test other technologies as well, and would like to be technology agnostic where agents could use any approved device on the network.

Holgate said ATF jumped into mobile computing early on because they had some money from the selling off of spectrum space. Agents used mobile devices to conduct video surveillance and send the data back to the office.

"We pretty quickly realized the value of that kind of capability," he said. "We hit it at the early stages of the technology maturity of that kind of capability, which has come a long way in the last 12-to-18 months. But then we also realized there are a lot more possibilities and value-added the mobile platforms can provide well beyond anything related to video surveillance, and we are really looking more at evolving to the next generational mobile capability beyond what we already provide to our workforce."

Knowing the change is happening, ATF is recompeting contracts for its IT infrastructure and software maintenance.

Holgate said the software maintenance request for proposals will come out through FedBizOpps.gov. He will use the General Services Administration's Alliant governmentwide acquisition contract for the IT infrastructure RFP.

"We want to use the IT infrastructure contract to rethink the way we manage and run our infrastructure," he said. "We want it to be more flexible, a more modern way to manage services and drive efficiencies and agility."

Holgate said ATF hired HP about seven years ago under a deal worth about $38 million a year. The agency is broadening the contract by asking for additional services, but also by partnering with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Holgate said the new contract could be worth $40 million a year.

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