Grants.gov has determined (through a very rigorous process) that only General Dynamics IT, their current contractor, can help them through this frantic period of activity and meet the goals of the Recovery Act, and has awarded them a contract extension, as this announcement shows. One of the announcement attachments is a “Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition”, which is a standard analysis that procurement offices produce to justify why “Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.” The announcement reads, in part:
“The technological augmentation of Grants.gov shall be limited to strengthening Grants.gov community applicant and Agency log-on, registration and application processing. The technology augmentation solution (solution) must be developed and implemented to ensure integration into the existing Grants.gov infrastructure.
“The Contractor shall supply the expertise, labor, equipment, and services necessary to implement the augmentation and continued day-to-day operations, maintenance, and support of Grants.gov. This includes file servers, storage devices, load balancing and network equipment, additional cage space, racks and hosting services (power, connectivity, monitoring).”
It also states:
“The current System Integrator, GDIT designed and operates the Grants.gov system and is the only entity with the in-depth knowledge of the current system. GDIT is also currently the only company that is familiar with the deficiencies of the current design and is best able to engineer and solution taking into account all relevant information concerning the system.
“It could take another contractor as much as 60–90 days to learn the basic architecture, design, and coding of the system and then additional time to design and implement a technical solution, which presents a high level of risk in being able to successfully meet OMB instructions to immediately improve the system and a substantial duplication of costs.”
I don’t think anyone who knows anything about Grants.gov could reasonably argue with this statement.
There is also a statement about some market research that was conducted:
“Market research was conducted to determine if any alternative options were available to develop and implement a cost-effective solution in the required time frame of the OMB memorandum to support Recovery Act processing. Grants.gov Program Management Office (PMO) and Health and Human Services (HHS) staff investigated the possibility of using a small business service provider that could be contracted with in order to determine the feasibility of having another source perform this work. It was determined that although other solution providers could eventually learn the system and do the requested work many of these firms did not have the in-house expertise and requisite skills to do all of the work and thus would have to subcontract for other services and that the time frames to obtain the resources, go through the steep learning curve and then design the solution would exceed the time available to improve the system, providing a high level of risk in successfully implementing a timely and cost-effective solution. This time frame also did not accommodate the amount of time it would take to solicit and contract for the services, which would also increase the potential time for a solution implementation. Also considered was contracting with a larger company to obtain these services, but the acquisition and learning curve times, along with the associated costs, would still be a factor and thus make this option a high level of risk in successfully implementing a timely and cost-effective solution. All of these options will also result in a substantial duplication of costs. Based on the above, GDIT is the only source available to perform the work without substantial duplication of costs to the government and without unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency’s requirement.”
I think this was inevitable, given the state of things. What is surprising, though, is that the Grants.gov PMO has investigated alternatives. Certainly there was a “cloud computing” RFI last year but I don’t recall seeing anything along the lines described above.
Regardless, I hope the measures that GDIT is being contracted to take will get Grants.gov through this frantic period and position the platform for future significant improvements that address “the deficiencies of the current design,” as they’re termed in the announcement.