CDC aims to standardize IT behind health data

Thursday - 10/21/2010, 7:42am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Part of how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working more closely with its state and local government partners is clearly visible through its recently awarded Information Management Services contract.

CDC recently gave 30 companies a spot on the technology services contract, known as CIMS, that is open for use by state and local governments. The 10-year multiple award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract could be worth up to $5 billion.

"Much of the work we do is in partnership and collaboration with our state and local partners," said Jim Seligman, CDC chief information officer. "It's part of our information supply chain."

CDC hands out about $130 million of its $430 million IT budget a year to state and local governments through its grant program to help support their technology capabilities to share data with the agency. State and local health care organizations provide CDC with information about the health of their populations, disease outbreaks, public health surveillance and many other areas.

Because of this strong connection and dependence, CDC director Thomas Frieden is placing a big emphasis on improving the agency's outreach and collaboration with grantees, Seligman said. Frieden created an Office of State and Local Services to help facilitate the outreach.

The CIMS contract will help promote this collaboration through technology.

"One of our key goals is to compress the cycle time to get information so that we get closer to near real time situational awareness and the detection of events or trends in population's health," Seligman said. "The faster we can see that an outbreak is going on, whether a contaminated food product or a toxic agent in the water supply, the quicker we can then help the public health community respond to it and save lives."

This is not the first time CDC offered state and local government access to a large IDIQ multiple award contract. But grantees hardly used CIMS predecessor, CDC IT Services (CITS). Seligman said only about 1-to-2 percent of all the task orders came from non-federal sources. He added a big reason was a lack of sustained marketing. The new state and local office should help fix that issue.

CDC consolidated CITS and several other contracts into CIMS. It offers IT services in three main functional areas: IT management, IT infrastructure and management consulting.

"We wanted broad areas that support technology," Seligman said. "In the past we had individual contracts in each domain or functional area. These three areas cover about anything in the information management and IT services area, and we added in consulting. We found that many management consulting engagements deal with information management or information systems."

Of the 30 winners, 15 are small businesses and the rest are the major system integrators.

Seligman said CDC offices will be able to set-aside specific task orders for only small businesses to bid on. He added that the goal is to award at least 20 percent of all task orders to small firms.

CDC should begin issuing the first set of task orders later this year, and Seligman said most of the work will come later in 2011 and beyond as the current slate of contracts wind down.

CDC becomes yet another agency to develop its own multiple-award contract. Seligman said CDC looked at whether it could use the General Services Administration's Alliant goverwnmentwide acquisition contract as well as the National Institutes of Health's CIO-SP2 GWAC.

Seligman said at the time CDC was planning CIMS, nearly three years ago, both contracts either had questions about awards and timing, or the specific types of services they would offer.

"Our interest was making sure we had high-caliber companies focused on public health and bio medical arenas, and who had expertise in the functional areas that we were looking for," he said. "NIH could have worked much better, but it turns out their timing sequence didn't align as we would have liked. I think they just advertised their RFP recently so it's going to be 6-to-9 months before an award and that was too late in our time horizon."

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