GSA planning makes technology easier during transition

Wednesday - 4/15/2009, 7:14am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

Contracts, architecture helped support almost three times as many people as expected

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
FederalNewsRadio

Ed O'Hare prepared technology to support about 500 people involved in the presidential transition starting Nov. 5 for 77 days.

What he got was something he never could have prepared for.

O'Hare, the General Services Administration Federal Acquisition Service's chief information officer, says they ended up supporting more than 1,300 people across four locations around the country.

"[The Obama transition team's] technology needs were well above the normal walk into an office and have phones, PCs and set up an office environment," he says. "The day after the election we had 70 people walk into the building and their phones and PCs were ready."

And that doesn't include the needs of VIPs, O'Hare adds.

"We generally didn't get a list of who was coming in the next morning until 9 p.m. the night before," he says. "We had night time crews working to set up user IDs and offices. It was intense. I spent one 28-hour shift there. It was that kind of pressure. We pulled long days and long shifts."

Even with all this pressure and the long days, O'Hare calls running the technology piece of the presidential transition the highlight of his 30-plus federal career.

"I think it is generally understood GSA did a wonderful job with this transition," he says. "Anything the Obama's needed from the day after the election until the day they walked into the White House, we would provide it. Our goal was to make sure they had nothing to worry about except that intellectual exercise figuring out how to run the government."

He adds that GSA had technology strategy plans no matter which candidate won the election, but the needs of the two campaigns were very different.

O'Hare says the key to supporting more than double the amount of people expected starts with the architecture and design of the network and systems. He also says the acquisition strategy was important.

"You award a contract with enough scope to react to those unknowns," O'Hare says. "When we started to realize we were going to have more than 500 people, and we had to get ourselves some more switches and network controllers, we had those contracts already in place and had terms and conditions that had to get them to us in 24 hours."

GSA used a variety of contracts to meet their needs.

O'Hare says he hired MicroTechnologies off the Veterans governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) to provide help desk support services.

GSA brought in Booz Allen Hamilton through the schedule contracts to provide architecture and project management support, and used the WITS 3 contract to bring in Qwest to provide the telecommunications infrastructure.

"I used some of those contracts because of the specific scope," he says. "You sit down in the beginning and imagine anything that could happen and architect it so it is expandable and extensible and award contracts that can react quickly to those things."

O'Hare had the future foresight to not only add the transition needs to contracts coming up for renewal, but make sure all equipment bought for the transition was equipment or infrastructure the agency needed anyways.

"This was a good way to keep the costs down," he says. "We took all hardware and put it in a warehouse and eventually it will be shipped out to GSA employees."

The transition office closed March 31, about two months after the inauguration.

"Everything we do here at GSA and FAS is for the good of the country, but this had a more direct and visible effect," he says.

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On the Web:

FederalNewsRadio - Transitioning from campaigning to governing

FederalNewsRadio - GSA gears up

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